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The Grid: Oklahoma utilities look to consumers to help cut costs

Fueled in part by rising costs and liabilities associated with new power plants, the state's electric utilities in recent year have stepped up their efforts to encourage their customers to cut back on the amount of power they use.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: September 1, 2013
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/articleid/3878432/1/pictures/2197869">Photo - This July 8, 2013 photo provided by FirstEnergy shows a helicopter aerial saw trimming trees along a FirstEnergy transmission corridor in Doylestown, Ohio. Electric utility tree-trimmers have made their mark on the picturesque hillside where branches coming into contact with high-power lines helped set off a chain-reaction blackout stretching to Canada and the East Coast and fried household appliances 10 years ago. But the sound of chain saws isn't welcome to tree lovers who now see open skies where tall trees once shaded the power lines and the neighborhood. <strong> - AP Photo/HO, FirstEnergy</strong>
This July 8, 2013 photo provided by FirstEnergy shows a helicopter aerial saw trimming trees along a FirstEnergy transmission corridor in Doylestown, Ohio. Electric utility tree-trimmers have made their mark on the picturesque hillside where branches coming into contact with high-power lines helped set off a chain-reaction blackout stretching to Canada and the East Coast and fried household appliances 10 years ago. But the sound of chain saws isn't welcome to tree lovers who now see open skies where tall trees once shaded the power lines and the neighborhood. - AP Photo/HO, FirstEnergy

Rather than just focusing on reducing total energy use, the utilities are pointing out the benefits of using energy more intelligently.

“We're not talking about conservation. We're talking about being more efficient in how we use energy at all times. What we see is when people use much more energy efficient system and divert much of their energy use to off-peak times, that lowers the amount of capacity we have to have. We have goals to reduce peak demand by 40 to 50 megawatts, which would otherwise require $100 million in new capacity.”

Utilities in Oklahoma and throughout the country have focused much of their effort on encouraging consumers to reduce the power they use during peak times.

The effort is fueled by the rapid rollout of Smart Meters, which allow the consumer and the utility to see exactly how much power is used at what time throughout the day.

The details vary from utility to utility, but under the various programs, consumers are charged a higher-than-normal price for energy used during peak times and a lower-than-normal rate for off-peak hours.

Besides reducing energy during peak times, the state's utilities also offer other programs and incentives designed to encourage consumers to use less energy.

Most utilities have programs that help their lower-income customers reduce costs through better insulation, weatherized doors and windows and other upgrades.

Other programs provide discounts or rebates for energy efficient upgrades to everything from lightbulbs to windows to air conditioners.

“When customers conserve energy, it allows us to lower our costs and it allows our system to be more efficient,” Langston said.

by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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