Sacramento - California's big electricity customers are using nearly 500 fewer megawatts this summer - the equivalent of the output from a medium-sized power plant.
The energy savings at peak use times come from the installation of real-time electricity meters around the State, one of the energy conservation measures funded last year in the wake of California's energy crisis.
With $35 million provided by Governor Davis and the State legislature, the California Energy Commission began its Real-Time Metering Program in May 2001. A report on the performance of the program has just been just released by the Commission.
"This project effectively demonstrates the importance of conservation in protecting our State's electricity supply," said Energy Commissioner Art Rosenfeld. "Constructing a 500-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant would take as long as four years and can cost between $250 million to $300 million. With real time meters, we've freed up that much electricity within six months, at a cost of only $35 million."
To prevent a repeat of last year's electricity crisis, California is asking utility customers to conserve 3,000 megawatts of electricity this summer, approximately half of last summer's conservation goal. Over 1,200 of those megawatts will come from programs like the Real-Time Meter project that were funded by emergency legislation last year. The remaining 1,800 megawatts must come from energy conservation by California businesses and consumers.
The Real-Time Metering Program was targeted to large utility customers such as shopping centers, large department or retail stores, small manufacturing plants, hospitals, large office buildings and some schools.
The project's goal was to rapidly install approximately 23,300 electronic interval meters — also called real-time meters or time-of-use meters — along with new communications equipment that would allow customers to view their energy use on an hourly or immediate basis on the Internet. In the past, information about electricity use was provided only monthly, on a customer's utility bill. This advanced information will allow large customers to better control their usage under existing time-of-use rates. When and if dynamic pricing is approved in the future, the new meters will become an even more effective tool for controlling energy costs.
To install 23,300 new meters as quickly as possible, the Energy Commission contracted with these public utilities: Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Northern California Power Authority and Southern California Public Power Authority. The contract process was complicated by the bankruptcy of Pacific Gas and Electric, and eventually contracts were signed with eMeter Corporation of Redwood City, a Metering Services Provider selected by PG&E to administer and operate their Real-Time Metering Program.
The Real-Time Metering Program's report to the legislature
is available on line at the Energy Commission's