Work up a sweat just thinking about business’s air-conditioning bills this summer? Believe it or not, your electric company may be able to cut you a deal.
Many electric providers are under pressure to reduce demand load in the hot summer months in order to avoid blackouts and brownouts and other electric grid issues. In doing so, many utilities now offer their commercial electric customers incentives (read: discounts) for signing up for programs that help them rein in electric use on the hottest days of the year. Some electric providers offer multiple types of programs geared to different types of businesses.
The easiest way to find out is to call your electric provider directly or check out its Web site, but the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program  lists what’s available state-by-state.
Some utilities lower commercial customers’ bills in return for allowing them to cycle off air conditioning during times of peak demand. Xcel Energy, a large electric utility in Colorado and Minnesota, provides businesses who sign up for its Saver’s Switch program a $5 per air-conditioning unit ton monthly discount from June through September – which averages about $100 in discounts per business per summer. (A 15% monthly electric bill discount is also available to Xcel’s residential customers who participate in the same program.)
Using a remote control, the Saver’s Switch allows Xcel to turn off the A/C compressor in intervals on the hottest most electric demand-heavy days. But since the fan continues to run, the company says that some customers won’t even notice their air-conditioning is off. (Certain types of businesses, such as restaurants and operations that require climate-control, are typically not good candidates for such a program.)
In California, Southern California Edison has a Summer Discount Plan, and San Diego Gas and Electric has its Summer Saver program, both of which lower bills in return for cycling off air conditioning.
Businesses using higher than normal amounts of electricity could also be eligible for electricity demand response programs in which they receive savings on their rates in return for voluntarily reducing usage during times of peak demand.
Notice times can vary. The New York Independent System Operator’s Emergency Demand Response Program, for example, provides a two-hour notice.
Some states have gone high-tech with these programs. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric, SCE, and SDG&E have an Automated Demand Response (Auto-DR) program in which commercial and industrial customers receive incentives for installing technology that automatically makes pre-programmed, pre-authorized load reductions through their facilities’ control systems.
In Washington state, PacifiCorp/Pacific Power’s Internet-based Energy Exchange offers real-time rate savings to large commercial customers during peak demand times. The customers can then decide whether the discount is enough to warrant reducing load.
Many electric utilities also offer rebates for businesses that replace their current air-conditioning units with more-efficient ones.
Do you participate in such a program through your electric provider? If so, how much money does it save you?
Frozen Bill  Photo via Shutterstock