Connecticut Light & Power's (Berlin, Connecticut, U.S.) customers will use significantly less energy during times of peak electric usage when clear pricing signals are provided. That's the main finding from the CL&P Plan-It Wise Energy Program pilot study that was filed with the state's Department of Public Utility Control.

Nearly 3000 CL&P residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) customers took part in the voluntary rate program from June 1 through Aug. 31 that tested their interest in and response to peak-time-based energy rates and smart technology. The approximately 1300 C&I customers that participated were the largest study of C&I customers in North America to date.

“Our objective was to learn how much our customers would change their energy usage in response to clear price differences during peak times and the use of the smart technology,” said Jessica Brahaney Cain, CL&P's Plan-It Wise Energy Program director. “Overall, they had a solid response.”

Residential customers in the pilot had smart meters, which measured their electricity usage in one-hour intervals. These smart meters were part of a system that collected and transmitted information about customer electricity usage to CL&P and then back to the customer via a two-way wireless network. Some participants were randomly selected to also receive smart technology, such as a smart thermostat or a control switch, which allowed CL&P to adjust their air conditioner temperature during predetermined periods of time to help the customer manage their electricity usage, or an energy orb, which alerted the customer of a change in electric rates by changing color, thereby giving the customer the ability to adjust their energy usage. Among the findings of the study:

  • On average, residential customers saved $15.21 over the course of the pilot, while limited-income customers saved $8.07. C&I customers, on average, paid an additional $15.45. However, the data also shows that customers who used the Plan-It Wise Web site to help track their energy usage saved more, with the average residential customer saving $24.69 and C&I customer saving $0.14.

  • CL&P gathered feedback from customers in a post-pilot satisfaction survey. Almost 90% of both residential and C&I customers surveyed stated that they joined the pilot to save money. Sixty-seven percent of residential and 52% of C&I customers were also motivated to join the pilot in order to positively impact the environment. The survey showed that customers who joined the pilot to positively impact the environment were more satisfied than customers who joined to save money.

  • The rate programs with the fewest peak hours, the highest peak-time pricing and the lowest off-peak-time pricing were most effective in reducing peak-time power usage. Customers on these rates achieved a peak energy-usage reduction of 16.1% for residential customers and 2.8% for C&I customers.

  • Controlling technologies like the smart thermostats and smart switches were effective in achieving up to a 7% additional peak energy-usage reduction for residential customers and up to 4% for C&I customers. However, informational devices like the energy orb and the power-cost monitor had no statistical peak energy-usage reduction effect.

  • Residential customers rated their overall satisfaction of the program at 5.1 out of 6, while C&I customers rated the program a 4.1 out of 6. Ninety-two percent of residential and 74% of C&I customers surveyed said they would participate again.

“CL&P definitely hit a home run with this one,” said pilot program participant Sharon Reidy of Stamford, Connecticut. “They were trying very hard to make it easier for us to save money in our homes.”

To learn more about the program, visit www.cl-p.com.