behavior modification. Pacific Gas and Electric

Believe it or Not: I love my smart meter!

It wasn't all that long ago that California's Central Valley erupted in a fervor. Not quite as monumental as the Arab Spring, but intense...for California.  And what was at the heart of this movement, this act of rebellion?  Class warfare?  Ineffective government?  Double digit unemployment?  Nope. It was this guy on the right.

The PG&E SmartMeter roll out in Bakersfield, California has been called a text book case on how not to roll out a smart meter installation campaign.  Lois Henry, over at the Bakersfield Californian has spent the last four years covering the brouhaha in great detail.  But I'm here to tell you a different story--a story of love. I'm here to tell you about my love affair with my SmartMeter.

Yup, Believe it or not, I live in central California and I LOVE MY SMARTMETER!

Over the top?  No, not once you understand our journey.  SmartMeter came to our house quietly in 2009.  I remember the "while you were out" notice on the door, and walking around the side of the house to say hi, but that's about it.  It wasn't love at first site.  Around the same time I had my head down and was working many late nights trying to learn my way through the energy industry and SJVCEO was still trying to find its place.   It wasn't until 2010 when I took over as the lead on the VIEW Partnership and fell into the rabbit hole that is energy benchmarking I started thinking more about my own energy use.  I wondered if I couldn't learn how to better serve our local governments through better understanding the way I used energy.

SmartMeter allowed me to see how I used my energy throughout the day.  I could log on to my PG&E account (before the launch of My Energy) and pull a graph from the day before.  It looked something like this:























Okay, that's a graph from My Energy, but with the exception of the pretty colors the content is the same. This was eye opening!  I could watch my habits throughout the day. That spike at 7:00 a.m.?  That's when I couldn't handle a blow dryer, curling iron and a house at 78 degrees and cranked the AC down to 74.  You'll notice it decreases after 8:00 a.m. when likely my husband woke up freezing and returned the thermostat to 79 (where he likes to diligently keep it). I could see Ryan (husband) and Dutch (Saint Bernard) warm up as the day progressed; as the the temperature crept up to 110 degrees so did our energy use.  And, back in these days things like laundry and dishwashers ran during the day so we didn't have to worry about chores eating in to our "us time". Well, we learned to adapt.

I realized that we could just as easily run the dishwater overnight, despite that it annoys Dutch to no end, and do the laundry in the mornings.  I also learned to wear my hair in a ponytail much more frequently in the summer months so I didn't have to worry about the heat of styling, which kept the AC off until after noon.  Oh, and those spikes at the end of the day? That's me again.  I hate sleeping in a hot house so I would turn the temperature down to go to sleep.  I had to give up the compulsion to sleep under a blanket no matter the season.  It was hard, but I've survived.  And, my power bill went down.  A lot.

Comparing August 2009 to August 2010 we had fewer peaks and less time in the 5 kWh+ zone, and a bill that was more than $100 less than the previous year.  Woo hoo!

That was my Koolaid; that's when I became and energy efficiency evangelist.

I realized it wasn't retrofits (although some serious insulation helped), but behavior modification that made the biggest difference.  And so it became my mission to integrate behavior modification recommendations in all our SJVCEO work.  My SmartMeter, and what I was able to learn and appreciate gave me a story that I could share and relate to the work that we were doing in the Valley.  Why benchmark thousands of municipal energy accounts (poor Maureen)? Because, seeing your energy habits sitting right next to cost makes a heck of an impression.  It also lets you see what you're doing right and not-so-right.  Now, I could tell a city, "hey, your office facilities are using almost as much energy at night as they are in the day.  Maybe we should take a look at what your staff is doing." But that usually elicits a "sure, let's look at it next quarter."  Now, if I have my laptop I can log in to the city's Portfolio Manager account and say, "See your use and how much it's costing you at City Hall? That's more than twice the national average for a similar space.  Why don't we take a look and see if we can't get this bill lower than $16,000 per month."  Then I'm more likely to get someone to escort me through the building after hours and see that office lights and nonessential machines are let on, and that the A/C is still kicking away at the government building standard--just short of Arctic!  That knowledge can lead to an education campaign to get employees to shut down at night, and perhaps even designates a person to make sure the A/C is turned up to keep the space controlled, but not freezing.  Say these simple steps, these behavior modifications end up saving a city $1,000 per month? Maybe more?  That's why we benchmark thousands of municipal energy accounts (still, poor Maureen).

So yeah, I love my SmartMeter, but the problem is not everyone has a SmartMeter--or an intelligent metering system.  Not even the everyone in the San Joaquin Valley has one...but that's about to change!

As mentioned in my ode to Carl and Eddy Southern California Edison's SmartConnect is coming to town!  This means that those residential and small business customers in our VIEW Partnership and beyond (Armona, California Hot Springs, Camp Nelson, Delano, Ducor, Earlimart, Goshen, Hanford, Ivanhow, Lemon Cove, Lindsay, McFarland, Pixley, Porterville, Springville, Strathmore, Terra Bella, Three Rivers, Tipton, Tulare, Tule River Indian Reservation, and Woodlake) are going to be able to track their energy use electronically and we don't have to do anything (yay for Maureen!).

At SJVCEO (even beyond my desk) we're pretty excited about SmartConnect, so we're going to take a team approach  to sharing the enthusiasm with the blogosphere.  On Wednesday, October 3 Maureen's Wellness Wednesday will address the question of intelligent meters and radio frequency, and on October 8th Dee's Money Monday will address how SmartConnect can help small businesses and residents invest wisely in energy efficiency.  I may even pull together another BION, but we'll have to see how October goes!  And because no one wants a Friday blog with out a couple of talking houses, here are my buddies, Carl and Eddy!  This time Carl gets the drop on Eddy and has to breakdown the super cool online tools that work with SmartConnect--darn, I gave it away!

 photo credit: Steve Wilhelm via photopin cc