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Switch Makes Cents Frequently Asked Questions

  • Posted: 05.29.2019

Summer is here and like many of us, we are turning to our air conditioners for some relief from the heat. Also during this time is when you'll hear us talk about "beating the peak" or reducing energy during peak hours. Many of our members participate in our Switch Makes Cents program to help control electricity usage during peak times. Below are some frequently asked questions about the program that can help provide clarity for our members. In addition, we encourage our members to contact our Member Services department or call us at 712.647.2727 and we can help address any questions or concerns that you may have.

What is “Peak Demand” or “Peak Energy Times”?

The time frame where the population is using electricity at the same time is what we refer to as “Peak Demand” or “Peak Energy Times.” Kilowatt hours that are used during these times are the most expensive versus kilowatt hours that are used during “off peak” times.

Our members play a big part in determining how much electricity we purchase from our Generation and Transmission Cooperative, NIPCO, in order to keep the lights on in our community. Daily peak times are different depending on the season. In the summer time, peak demand usually occurs in the afternoon and early evening. Whereas in the winter time, peak demand occurs during the morning hours.

What is “Switch Makes Cents” Load Management?

Switch Makes Cents helps members to prevent purchasing power during "Peak Times" or when the power is the most expensive. Load Management is one of the easiest ways for members to become active in their cooperative, save some money on their monthly bills, and become partners in the effort to control electricity rates. The Switch Makes Cents Load Management Program helps stabilize future power costs to the cooperative and reduces power plant emissions for a cleaner environment. This works through our power provider shifting the energy used by electric heating systems, electric water heaters, and other electric appliances to off-peak hours. This saves money for all cooperative members in the form of stable rates.

Why is it important to reduce peak demand?

Peak demand determines, in part, the cost of electricity purchased by our wholesale power provider, NIPCO. As peak demand grows, power suppliers must provide more electric generation to keep up with the load demand.

You play a big part in determining how much electricity we purchase from NIPCO in order to keep the lights on in our community. Energy consumption is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Demand is measured in kilowatts (kW). A lightbulb “consumes” a certain number of watts: let’s say 100 watts per hour. If that light bulb stays on for 10 hours, it “demands” a certain number of kilowatts (in this case, 1 kW) from the generation station producing electricity. Now, if you turn on 10, 100-watt lightbulbs in your home for one hour, you are still consuming the same number of kW. However, you are placing a demand on the co-op to have those kW available to you over the course of one hour, instead of ten. This requires the generation and transmission plant to produce more power in less time in order to meet your demand.

Our co-op purchases kilowatt-hours from our G&T (NIPCO) based on the average demand for our members. Peak demand refers to the time of day when the demand for electricity is the highest. If there isn’t enough electric generation produced to keep up with peak demand, more generation facilities may need to be built which means a higher price per kilowatt and more cost to you, our member.

By helping to control peak demand, you can help keep power costs lower and conserve energy. On average, the Switch Makes Cents program saves 19.4 MW per year for a total of $313,681 benefit to HCREC members.

How Does the Program Work?

By signing up for the Switch Makes Cents load management program, you get direct savings of 5.425 cents per kilowatt-hour, as well as help the cooperative save on our wholesale bill which, in turn, helps reduce everyone's power bill. Air conditioners, water heaters, electric heating applications (duel fuel and storage heat), and other equipment qualify for the Switch Makes Cents load management program. HCREC will install a Load Management switch in your home, on your farm, or in your commercial business. This switch allows the connected unit to be interrupted by our power provider, NIPCO, for brief intervals of operation during times of peak energy usage.

What equipment can be controlled?

· Water heaters – controlled year-round in 6-8 hour increments

· Air cooling and heating systems – Controlled in sequences of 12-15 minutes

· Irrigators – controlled April to November over 4-hour increments

· Generators – controlled year-round in 4-hour increments

How do I know if HCREC is currently experiencing Peak Demand?

When you visit our website at www.hcrec.coop, there is a “Peak Alert” monitor on our home page. If Harrison County REC’s service territory is approaching peak demand, the needle on the monitor will be in the red zone. During this time, we ask that our members begin doing their part to conserve energy to protect the system and the overall energy grid. This could include adjusting your thermostat by a few degrees, waiting to start that load of laundry, unplugging any electrical appliances that you aren’t currently using, and more. If HCREC’s energy demand is normal, the needle will be in the green zone on the monitor.