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PWC talks conservation and how customers can save money

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The Fayetteville Public Works Commission on Wednesday heard about programs the utility offers to help its customers save money on their monthly bills while also helping to manage the company’s power supply costs.

“I don’t know no one who doesn’t want to save money,” commission member Donald Porter said.

Mark Brown, the chief customer officer for the Fayetteville PWC, presented an update on the utility’s strategic plan conservation efforts.

“We need to engage people so they know what we’re trying to do,” Brown said.

His presentation to the commission incorporated a strategic initiative in the utility’s conservation efforts related to the time-of-use rates that were introduced to customers in 2019. The initiative involves what PWC is doing to reduce capacity and demand costs.

The company implemented time-of-use rates for residential and small commercial electric customers. These rates are more in line with how the utility has to purchase power from Duke Energy Progress  – at higher rates during peak hours, when customers typically use more power, PWC states on its website.

According to PWC, time-of-use rates lower a customer’s electric bills by conserving and shifting consumption from peak to off-peak hours. Rates for electricity used during off-peak hours are 35% lower than during peak times.

The average PWC residential customer uses 1,017 kilowatts of electricity each month – 21% during peak hours and 79% during off-peak hours, the utility says.

Brown told commissioners that the utility’s conservation strategic priority has two main components. The first, which he discussed Wednesday, deals with the conservation of dollars. The second, which he said they would hear about later, regards the conservation of its water supply and some of the environmental requirements dictated by state law.

PWC has two main components when it comes to power supply costs based on the coincident peak demand. Brown said the coincident peak is the hour in the month when the Duke Energy system has the highest consumption.

So that high – whatever customers use during that hour - costs PWC about $20 a kilowatt hour, he said. “And the rest of the month, all the kilowatt hours we buy costs less than 3 cents.

“So everything we can do to reduce consumption during that one hour drives the cost of power supply down for everybody,” Brown said.

He said the utility’s normal customer averages roughly 10 kilowatts an hour.

Brown discussed several programs that can help customers control energy costs.

Residential customers can call 910-223-4600 to receive a device from the utility that controls the energy on their water heater. The application of water heating uses the second-most energy in a home after heating and cooling, Brown said.

The device, which is specific to water heaters, is part of the PWC Aquanta program. The program is free.

Customers who purchase Energy Star Wi-Fi-connected and Ecobee smart thermostats can get a bill credit.

“We’ll give you an $80 bill credit,” he said. Smart thermostats normally cost around $100 to $120, he added, and are typically available from Home Depot or Lowe’s.

With the Ecobee smart thermostat, he said, customers will receive the bill credit on their purchase if they enroll in the PWC program. In this case, the utility controls the Ecobee smart thermostat when it expects the most customer usage. In addition, people also receive a monthly $3 bill credit, he said.

All in all, the lower the power supply costs, Brown said, the lower a customer’s rate can be.

“If we save money, what we save lowers our power supply costs. If we save money, it flows to the customer because we’re a municipal utility and not for profit.”

Elaina Ball, the utility’s CEO and general manager, said that in any given month, the Duke Energy Progress invoice “is always the largest item that we pay for as a utility."

She said that invoice can be $6 million to $9 million per month for the cost of this community. Most months, Ball said, the peak hour represents 60% of that cost.

“This is why it’s so key for us to focus on this from a strategic perspective. This is a significant tool for us to help our customers manage costs,” she added.

“The reality is we’re giving customers control," Ball said. "That’s powerful for the customer. We’re trying to help customers save.”

During the winter, peak hours of usage are 6 to 10 a.m., November through March; during the summer, peak hours of usage are 3 to 7 p.m., April through October.

“If you move your usage outside of that window,” Brown said following the meeting, "you save about 35% on the cost of whatever you’re using. If you move clothes washing, dishwashing outside the window, set the thermostat lower in the morning during the winter and a little higher in the summer and your energy is 35% cheaper.”

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Fayetteville, Public Works Commission, time-of-use rates, energy bills

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