Obviously conserving electricity saves money, which in tough economic times is particularly important. However, small businesses and other organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area were just issued checks for turning out the lights and taking the stairs for one day last summer. And some of the checks were for thousands of dollars.
These small commercial energy users were part of a Demand Response program run by the nonprofit San Francisco Community Power. When state energy use is particularly high, such as when there has been an extended heat spell and air conditioners are running for many hours a day through broad areas of the state, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) calls on Demand Response program participants to reduce demand by turning off equipment and lights, not using elevators, etc.
Participants in this program included all types of small commercial users, from retailer stores (such as an REI store), to automobile dealers and a film production studio, to schools and government offices. They received checks ranging from $30 to $3000 all from one day of reduced electricity usage last August.
Funds from the PUC go to voluntary participants, according to the amount of their reduction of energy. This particular program is innovative in that it is the first time that demand response programs have been available to small commercial users. San Francisco Community Power’s Executive Director, Steven Moss, says, “Corporations, like Chevron or Bank of America, have long had access to programs that pay them to reduce their electricity use, but this pilot program shows that small businesses and other small commercial users can also help insure grid reliability and reduce greenhouse gases.”
Reducing Load on the Electricity Grid Critical to the Environment on Energy Alert Days
Because California’s most polluting resources, such as diesel back-up generators and older power plants, are only used when electricity demand spikes, demand-response programs that reduce the need for these back-up sources on “energy alert days” are very important to avoiding pollution. Although participants in this pilot program signed up for the Peak Energy Alert Season, which lasts from June to September, they were only called on to reduce demand one day last August.
Moss was very pleased that pilot program participants cut their demand by 4.5 megawatts in response to calls from San Francisco Community Power staff on that day. The organization is hoping for more participants and more energy savings next summer.
If you would like to participate in the program next summer and are a business or commercial customer of PG&E and are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can get more information by visiting the San Francisco Community Power website.
If you know of programs outside of the San Francisco Bay Area that are targeted toward smaller businesses, please comment below to share with other Ecopreneurist readers. Thanks!