April began with a bright item of news in Virginia: Appalachian Power plans to begin providing energy efficiency programs for customers!
The proposal for which Appalachian Power is seeking approval from state regulators has a couple of parts, and the first is much-needed weatherization for low-income households.
According to the company’s news release, the program will serve rural inhabitants “who often have few resources or opportunity to invest in efficient homes or technology.” The intent is for local energy service companies weatherize homes and the program also includes distribution of compact fluorescent lightbulbs at area food banks.
This move befits a utility that wants to be a good neighbor; home weatherization assistance can help a family’s budget go farther, and it’s the kind of program that every utility should be expected to offer, especially in rural areas where it’s essential to relieve the burden of higher energy costs on residents.
Appalachian Power is also seeking approval for an A/C cycling program which would allow customers to opt in to a program to relieve demand on the grid during peak usage. These program typically work by installing a smart control on a home’s A/C unit that the utility can then control to turn off and on your unit during the hottest part of the day to reduce the amount of electricity that needs to be provided. The customer benefits by saving money on their electricity bill.
While utilities often try to market these types of programs as efficiency measures, it’s arguable whether that is accurate. Efficiency programs reduce overall energy consumption and therefore impact generation needs, whereas an A/C cycling program offers “peak shaving” which better distributes existing demand to eliminate the need to fire-up expensive coal plants during particularly hot parts of the day. The nuances of that can wait, but the bottom line is that both of the programs proposed by Appalachian Power Company are a step in the right direction and will benefit ratepayers.
Finally, if Appalachian Power sees the potential for cost-effectively balancing energy generation and demand through efficiency, it shouldn’t stop with these initial steps. Hopefully the company will soon be ready to take a bigger leap and offer a wider range of energy efficiency programs. With support from customers, Appalachian Power can be influenced to reduce wasted energy in a way that benefits families and the environment.
Be part of the effort to push for more robust energy efficiency programs from Appalachian Power.