‘Volunteer’ Peak Shavings Program To Continue In Berlin

BERLIN – Berlin Electric customers can expect the town’s peak shavings program to continue even as summer winds down.

Though the hottest days of the year are probably past, electric customers may be asked to reduce their electricity use on particularly cold days this winter.

“It’s a volunteer program,” said Town Administrator Laura Allen. “We’re not requiring people to do it but if you just make a small change you could potentially get a big payoff.”

According to Allen, electric customers are asked to reduce their electricity usage — to “beat the peak,” as some utility companies say — on days when it’s extremely hot or cold and the town’s load increases. If usage is high and the town is forced to purchase additional power, it will be at a high rate. That cost would have to be passed on to customers.

“If we have to purchase during the peak that’s the most expensive time to buy power,” Allen explained. “If we do have to buy then the costs get passed to the rate payer.”

If each user cuts their electricity use when the load is expected to be high, the town is in less danger of having to buy power and the rate payer saves money by using less electricity.

“Ultimately customers save money,” Allen said.

The town has issued six peak shavings alerts this summer, the most recent of which was for Sept. 3. The alerts, which are distributed via press releases, through social media and by the town’s mass notification system, advise residents to limit their energy usage by unplugging appliances not being used, raising their thermostats and refraining from doing things like running the dishwasher.  Most alerts are for the hottest part of the day, between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Allen says that it’s hard to say how many of the town’s electric customers are reducing their electricity usage during the recommended times. The town has not, however, needed to purchase power during a peak period. Allen said town employees were participating at town hall and that several had told her of how they’d adjusted their plans –by doing things like cooking on the grill instead of using the oven—when they were at home during a peak period.

The town launched the peak shavings program this year in an effort to promote sustainability and also because its new membership in AMP (American Municipal Power Inc.) provided it with peak period alerts.

“It came together as a next step for our utility,” Allen said.

She said AMP issues a peak period warning to its members after its experts look at weather patterns and load estimates. Once the warning is issued, the town can decide whether or not to issue a peak alert. The town generally opts to ask customers to reduce usage whenever it receives an alert from AMP.

“It makes sense economically,” she said.

Because the town is now a regular participant in these events, officials are looking for a name for the program. Though “Beat the Peak” is the moniker adopted by most utilities, Allen says Berlin officials are looking for something different.

“We’re looking for something that’s uniquely Berlin,” she said.

Residents are invited to submit their ideas for a chance to win $25 to use at a downtown Berlin shop.  To enter, visit the town’s Facebook page.