Energy companies are offering cash, gift cards and prizes to encourage customers to reduce their power use during peak demand periods.
The plans, known as energy demand management programs or demand response (DR), offer packages and incentives and can save households hundreds of dollars, especially as more of us are working – and generally spending more time – at home.
Origin Energy’s program is called Spike and participants can score points to redeem PayPal cash and gift cards and enter monthly prize draws, as well as reduce their energy bills.
Origin’s head of growth for future energy Michael Artup told The New Daily that customers earn an average of $40 a year, although one customer who had high usage before the program earnt $1200 in an “extreme case”.
Each week customers sign up for a ‘Spike Hour’ challenge in an effort to use as little energy as possible. If they beat their predictions, Origin rewards them with points, and the more points, the more gift cards or PayPal cash. There are also occasional monthly prizes.
Energy Australia’s program PowerResponse runs a slightly different model. Participants are notified via an email or SMS about when the power saving ‘event’ will begin and receive another email or SMS when it’s over. They are rewarded with credits against their next bill.
AGL’s program Peak Energy Rewards runs along similar lines.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) defines DR as: “The voluntary reduction or shift of electricity use by customers, which can help to keep a power grid stable by balancing supply and demand.
“DR is also a quick and cost-effective way to reduce the demand for electricity during peak periods, providing an alternative to increasing the amount of electricity being generated or building new power plants.
“It can lower the amount of electricity required from the grid during peak periods, reducing the likelihood of a blackout or to shift demand to off-peak periods or when renewable energy output is high, to use excess electricity more efficiently.
“It can even help to bring down wholesale electricity prices, which increase when demand is high.”
According to ARENA, in some grids in the United States DR is used to meet more than 10 per cent of peak demand for electricity. New Zealand began using DR in 2007 and now meets more than 16 per cent of peak demand through DR programs.
Energy saving tips
- Switch your garden up. Planting deciduous trees on north-facing areas will let sun in during winter and provide shade during summer. Plant fruit trees such as pears and apples and you will also have a bonus bountiful harvest.
- Be passive aggressive. Install passive cooling measures: get your roof insulated; open up doors and windows to cool morning breezes; close curtains and blinds against the sun and install exterior blinds on north-facing windows.
- Consider your appliances. Use shorter cycles on your washing machine or dishwasher, wash clothes in cold water, turn off appliances when not in use. When replacing appliances, try and buy the highest energy star rating.
- Light the way. Switching to LED lights can save you hundreds of dollars over the life of the globe. They might even be free. Victoria has a free replacement program and in New South Wales you only pay a $33 call out fee to have your lights replaced.
- Time it right. If you have solar power, try to use your big appliances such as the washing machine or dishwasher during the peak power producing time.
What are your tips for lowering your energy bill? Why not leave your suggestions in the comments section below?
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