Tech

Texas heat wave overloads electricity grid, causing businesses to adapt thermostats remotely

Texas ’electricity grid unpleasantly surprises its users. After last winter’s storm it disabled parts of the network for several days, causing potential hundreds of dead, a summer heat wave is back once again threatening the network. One potential solution that Texas power companies have found is to raise the temperature on some customers ’smart thermostats. The problem is, some of these customers weren’t aware that their electric company could and would do such a thing – until their homes warmed up unexpectedly.

A Houston family he told a local news affiliate that his smart thermostat was turned up to 78 degrees with apparently no warning other than a text sent after the fact. When they signed up for a program called “Texas Smart Savers” – entering them into a lottery to win up to $ 5,000 of their energy bills for next year – these users didn’t realize that this also gave them permission. to the electric company to adapt its thermostat during periods of high demand, such as heat waves.

The idea of ​​an electric company that turns on your thermostat like one stereotypical father knows the electricity bill it might seem dystopian, but it is also quite common. There are programs like Smart Savers Texas all over the country, from California to New England. The idea behind them is to decrease energy consumption to relieve stress on the electricity grid and avoid interruptions. Since customers are not likely to volunteer to use less of the power they pay for when they need it most, these programs give them an incentive and the means to do so easily (by proxy). Some programs provide better incentives than others. When it was launched in 2011, the Philadelphia Smart A / C Saver program gave participants a $ 120 bill credit (apparently it was too generous, which was reduced to $ 40 in subsequent years). But Smart Savers Texas only offers customers the chance to earn free power for a year, and apparently hasn’t made their terms very clear.

But sometimes, the terms of the program were a little too good for customers. New York City Smart AC program, which gave participants smart plugins and gift cards, ended in 2020 because, Con Edison said it was not economical. PECO of Philadelphia he finished his similar program, with a $ 40 bill discount, last fall

Power companies usually do these programs in collaboration with the technology companies that supply the devices. Smart Savers Texas is managed by a company called EnergyHub and is available through smart thermostats made by Alarm.com, Lux, Google’s Nest, Radio Thermostat, Sensi, Vivint and ecobee.

Google’s Nest also has its own. “Rewards of rush hour“Program available through participating energy companies. Reward varies. In a New York zip code, for example, ConEd offers” up to “$ 85 if you enroll in the program, while National Grid gives only one card. $ 25. Some energy companies also offer discounts on smart thermostats themselves.And Google seems to be hoping there is room to expand its Rush Hour Rewards beyond temperature, too: Nest’s head of energy partners said April that “in the future, your electric vehicle or even your entire home may be able to connect.”

These programs are currently opt-in, as opposed to the stereotypical father conscious of electrical billing. But if the Texas example is anything to go by, there are some people who don’t understand what they were getting into. If you’re afraid of being one of them and don’t want to be, now would be a good time to check with your electric company to make sure you’re not, especially if you have a smart thermostat.

It’s also a good memory to always check the fine print, especially if you’re offered something for what appears to be nothing in return. There is always a catch.


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