In a bid to attack the environmental and financial costs behind peak energy demand, a New Brunswick utility has begun alerting its customers to looming peaks and asking for their help in curbing them.
Saint John Energy sent out its first “peak alert” ahead of a cold snap in March, with public appeals on social media and in direct messages to its customers, asking them to cut back on energy use for a few hours if they could.
The appeal worked – many of customers responded, collectively cutting back their electricity use by 14 megawatts in that short time and saving the locally owned utility company more than $210,000 in peak demand charges.
“Thousands of our customers joined in that day to make small but meaningful changes to their power consumption. They told us they delayed using their stove, put off doing laundry until later in the day and turned down their thermostats by a couple of degrees in rooms they were not using,” the utility’s Carl Ozkaynak said in a blog post.
“We turned to the people of Saint John and asked for help. Help they did, and we’re grateful,” “As more people understand why we are doing this and how it helps, we hope that they too will want to join in the effort to shave the peak.”
In the post, the company said it faces one of the highest peak demand charges in Canada – charges that consume almost a third of its annual energy purchasing budget. Moreover, it points out, peak demand can prompt NB Power as its wholesale supplier to turn to fossil fuel generation plants to satisfy the need, increasing carbon emissions in the province.
Saint John Energy, which has a reputation for low rates and high reliability, says it undertakes a number of its own measures to avoid peak demand. But this first peak alert has demonstrated the willingness of its customers to join in on the effort, and the company says it plans to continue.