Last fall we wrote about Progress Energy’s successful implementation of its Neighborhood Energy Saver program. We are happy to announce that this program has already inspired change in our region: as of last week, Duke Energy South Carolina will be joining the growing group of utilities offering a low-income neighborhood implementation program.
On April 16, Duke Energy submitted their proposed Residential Neighborhood Program to the South Carolina Public Service Commission for approval. Shortly after, SACE also submitted comments, evaluating and supporting this effort. And on May 9 – less than a month after the application was submitted – the Commission approved the program and gave Duke the green light for implementation!
Up until now, Duke Energy had few offers targeted specifically at low-income customers in South Carolina. The only options targeted at low-income customers were offered through the Office of Economic Opportunity, which administered the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Weatherization Assistance Program.
According to Duke Energy’s application, the Residential Neighborhood Program will help customers in income-qualified neighborhoods reduce energy consumption by performing energy assessments and subsequently installing, at no charge to the customer, the energy savings measures identified in the evaluation.
You can see the ten measures that this program plans to offer in Figure 1, shown below.
|Figure 1. Measures in Duke Energy’s Residential Neighborhood Program
|1. Compact fluorescent bulb
|2. Electric hot water heater wrap and insulation for water pipes
|3. Electric hot water temperature check and adjustment
|4. Low flow faucet aerator
|5. Low flow shower head
|6. Wall plate thermometer
|7. HVAC winterization kit
|8. HVAC filters
|9. Change filter calendar
|10. Air infiltration reduction measures
Duke Energy anticipates that installing these measures will cut participants’ energy use by approximately 950 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year, saving participants about $100 annually. Right now, the Company is predicting that it will reach about 2,400 customers a year. If the program runs for the full four years the Commission approved, then Duke has the potential to reach 9,600 South Carolina residents!
This is not just good news for low-income customers; it’s good news for all customers of Duke Energy Carolinas. The Residential Neighborhood Program will cost-effectively reduce Duke Energy’s electric demand, at far less cost than new generation resources. The Company forecasts that, with this decrease in demand occurring over the next four years, the program will cost $2.5 million but will save all customers $3.5 million.
SACE congratulates Duke Energy for adding this valuable program option to their portfolio of energy efficiency programs! This is a great start, and there are some potential ways that the Company can make the program even better. For instance, the Company could target all qualified neighborhoods, going beyond their estimated goal of 9,600 customers. We also recommended in our comments, and the South Carolina Commission agreed, that it is important to try and expand the impact of the program by collaborating with other low-income efficiency implementers in South Carolina. It would be great if Duke Energy could work with community action agencies to ensure that homes are safe, and additional, more advanced efficiency measures can be installed in these homes.
Duke Energy also submitted for approval a similar program for their North Carolina customers as well. We are hopeful that the Commission in North Carolina will approve the program there as well, so that all of Duke Energy’s customers can benefit from this great initiative.