Tampa Electric has been actively involved in demand-side management with its residential and commercial customers since the early 1980s. Its demand-side management (DSM) programs include free home energy audits; heating and cooling equipment rebates; insulation rebates; incentives for sealing heating, ventilation and air-conditioning duct systems; load management; critical peak pricing and more.

Tampa Electric has performed more than 426,000 free energy audits and paid almost 444,500 rebates to customers who have participated in its DSM programs. This accounts for about as much electricity as it takes to serve 896,000 homes for a year.

Load Control History

Tampa Electric’s legacy residential direct-load-control program was initiated in 1982. In 2005, however, the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) ruled the program to be no longer cost-effective, thereby closing it to new business. Subsequent to that decision, the utility began to explore other options for residential load control and, ultimately, initiated Energy Planner, a critical peak-pricing program. With utilities across the industry beginning to use critical peak-pricing resources to reduce peak demand and provide stability to the electric grid, it became apparent Tampa Electric was embarking on a viable path by offering its customers the ability to have direct control over their energy usage.

The goal of the Energy Planner program was to create an interactive energy management system to give residential customers control over their energy purchases while providing Tampa Electric an alternative for load reduction during times of system peak demand. Using intelligent devices such as programmable thermostats, customers would be able to control the operation of their central heating and cooling systems, electric water heaters and pool pumps to take advantage of lower electricity rates that could lead to energy savings and reduced electric bills.

The utility determined its Energy Planner program would offer four rate tiers for electricity: low, medium, high and critical. The first three rate tiers (low, medium and high) were clearly defined by a tariff and corresponded to seasonal increases and decreases of system load shapes and correspondingly higher and lower costs of energy production. The fourth rate tier, or critical period, would be available for use by Tampa Electric at the discretion of its system operator and typically would occur less than 1% of the annual total of 8,760 hours. Tampa Electric’s critical peak-pricing tier would be activated only during times of extremely high demand, when Tampa Electric or other generating units in Florida experienced difficulty producing enough electricity to meet the level of customer demand.

The thermostat’s ease of use allows customers to set a temporary hold, overriding preprogrammed settings, with the touch of a finger.

The total price customers participating in Energy Planner would pay for electricity would be based on their kilowatt-hour usage, the time of day of that usage and the day of the week. Overall, the program would provide customers a rate lower than the standard residential rate approximately 87% of the time, including all hours on weekends and major holidays. During both the high- and critical-tier periods, customers would be strongly encouraged to reduce their energy usage to save on electricity costs.

Energy Planner Pilot

Tampa Electric initiated Energy Planner as a pilot program and used a sample group of approximately 250 participants comprised of former direct-load-control customers and new customers who had never used any type of energy management activity. For load-reduction and energy-savings analyses, the utility used a control group with a customer profile similar to that of the sample group. The pilot period was held from September 2005 through February 2007.

The ZigBee-enabled Digi gateway plugs into the customer’s router or modem for communications and takes up very little space.

Through the pilot program, Tampa Electric had the opportunity to monitor participants and evaluate their consumption and response to the pricing tiers and critical peak-pricing events. The pilot also helped the utility to identify best practices for strategies to implement Energy Planner. Additionally, Tampa Electric was able to determine both the program’s cost-effectiveness, in accordance with FPSC standards, and how best to measure customer satisfaction with the technology and overall program focus.