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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Using Energy Smarter

Posted by Jason Haupt - Energy

We all keep a close eye on our utility bills each month. This makes sense as energy usage accounts for between five and fifteen percent of the average American households expenses. There are many ways that you can cut down on energy usage, and they all have an impact on how much you are spending each year. Energy efficiency benefits your pocketbook on a monthly or annual basis, but it can also have an effect on your energy costs in the long run. By making yourself more energy efficient, it means that you are consuming less energy and your energy providers do not have to build more infrastructure to keep up with demand. New infrastructure costs result in higher energy costs for the consumer.

Energy companies in Illinois have been updating their metering system over the past couple of years to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Ameren Illinois and ComEd recently began upgrading the meters on homes with what is commonly called "smart meters." The smart meters come with some significant benefits for the residents. Older meters would only give a daily, weekly or monthly usage for customers but the new smart meters will be able to look at energy consumption on an hourly basis providing customers access to some fantastic benefits.

  • Get a better understanding of when you are using electricity. Once a smart meter has been installed you can sign up for an account with your provider and see when you are using the most energy. This gives you the opportunity to investigate what is using so much electricity and make some changes to your habits to reduce energy consumption and save yourself some money.
  • Participation in Peak Time Rebates –Both Ameren Illinois and ComEd have programs that reward their customers for reducing power consumption during peak energy demand times. These programs look at previous years usage and give the customer a rebate on their bill when they reduce their usage during times of particularly high demand. During the summer this tends to be between the hours of 3 pm to 5 pm when people are starting to make it home and cool their homes, and office buildings are still using cooling systems. By turning up your air conditioner, not running the dishwasher, or doing laundry during these time will help to reduce electrical demand and can result in a rebate on your bill.
  • Access to real-time pricing –Smart meters will give customers the option to pay the going rate of electricity for a particular time. The price of electricity fluctuates throughout the day based on the demand. Currently, prices are flat based on a daily average cost of electricity which is static and based on your providers negotiated price. With real-time pricing, you will be able to take advantage of a reduction in price when demand is lower. With a few habit changes and using this program, you could see savings on your electric bill. There is some risk with this type of pricing as using power during peak times of demand will result in paying a premium for power during those high demand times.

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