California has new energy conservation tools

April 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Power grid managers are forecasting another challenging summer when it comes to managing the state's energy supply.

The California Independent System Operator is counting on customers to conserve. But the state has some new tools as well.

You don't have to wait for your electricity bill to be delivered to see how much you've used. The amount is sometimes a surprise.

Try installing an energy meter, which gives you a running tab much like cab fare.

"It's just a way to give more information to the consumer, so they would modify their behavior as they see fit," said Cal-ISO strategist Walter Johnson.

If electricity grid managers have to issue a Power Alert or Stage One Emergency where Californians are asked to voluntarily cut back energy use, you can get an email.

And if your home is hooked up, you can send commands to certain outlets to power down.

"I can do that from my computer, so if I'm at work and I hear the information, I can provide a signal back to my home and have my home respond. It might not be a lamp, but it might be my air conditioning or my pool pump," said Johnson.

While other technologies are still in development, the one with the most promise of being available soon is an alarm that alerts consumers state energy supplies are tight and the price of electricity will be higher during peak demand times.

"If I try to start the dryer, instead of starting right away, it indicates there's something happening. Prices are elevated. The homeowner can choose: to go ahead and run the dryer anyway or perhaps, if they're able to, defer running the dryer," said Johnson.

The energy meter runs about $100 dollars, while the remote access can cost $250, plus 30-cents per outlet. And before you install them, check with your utility company to make sure these gadgets will work with their system.


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