Residential Tucson Electric Power customers with smart thermostats can earn rewards, possibly reduce their monthly electric bills and take the strain off our grid during peak times by enrolling in our new Smart Rewards program.

Our new pilot program offers customers an initial $50 MasterCard e-gift card for each smart thermostat (up to two) they enroll if they agree to allow their thermostat provider to make small, temporary automatic adjustments to their thermostats during peak energy demand June through September. Customers will receive another $40 e-gift card per thermostat if they stay enrolled at the end of the season.

Reducing peak loads helps customers save money, preserves the environment and delays the need for TEP to build new power plants, which helps keep costs lower for everyone. The new program is designed to reduce electric loads during times of peak energy demand, especially late afternoons on very hot days when most of us are using air conditioning to stay cool.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, cooling and heating account for up to half of a typical home’s energy usage. But that percentage is likely higher in Southern Arizona, where extended use of air conditioning is a necessity during our long, hot summers.

Under this program, when demand for electricity is high, TEP may adjust participating thermostats by a few degrees for up to three hours to help reduce energy demand.

Customers always retain control over their thermostat and may opt out of an event at any time by simply adjusting their thermostats.

The Smart Rewards program is just one of the energy efficiency programs approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Many other utilities nationwide offer similar load management programs for thermostats and other major appliances because they benefit both the customer and utility.

“Overall, smart thermostat demand response (DR) programs offer a win-win for both customers and TEP, since they reduce energy consumption, lower energy bills, and increase grid stability, said Tom Hines, Principal of Tierra Resources Consultants LCC, which partnered with TEP to develop the program administered by EnergyHub.

“Customers who participate in smart thermostat DR programs also support renewable energy by shifting their electricity usage to times when solar energy generation is higher and conserving energy in the early evening as the sun sets but AC use remains high,” he added.

Julie Donavant, Principal of TEP’s Energy Programs, explained that the first year of the program will provide valuable information about the program’s impacts, such as how it helps to lower whole household electric use on hot afternoons while maintaining customers’ comfort and satisfaction levels.

“The whole intent of this program is to learn how TEP can partner with customers to make small shifts in energy usage across a high number of homes to better manage electric use during period of peak demand,” she said. “Monitoring, managing and evaluating load management for heating and cooling will help us identify future program opportunities that provide benefits on both sides of the meter for customers and TEP.”

The Smart Rewards program is open to all current TEP residential customers who have an account in their name and have an eligible smart thermostat that is installed and connected to their Wi-fi. For more information or to enroll, visit TEP Smart Rewards.

Benefits for customers:

  • Lower energy bills: In addition to receiving an annual incentive for participating in the program, customers can also save money on their energy bills by reducing their energy use during times of peak demand.
  • Managed comfort:  Smart thermostat demand response programs can maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. Slightly shifting temperature settings by just a few degrees below the customer’s preferred temperature set points can help cool customer homes before an event. That way, customers stay comfortable longer while temperatures slowly drift upward by a few degrees during the event’s on-peak hours.
  • Convenience and control: Since the thermostat adjustments are made remotely by the thermostat manufacturer, customers don’t need to do anything to manage their thermostat settings. But customers always retain control and can adjust their thermostats to maintain comfort at any time, without penalty from TEP or their thermostat manufacturer.
  • Cleaner energy: Customers can make the most of our renewable energy by shifting their electricity usage to times when solar energy generation is higher and conserving energy in the early evening as the sun sets but AC use remains high.

Benefits for TEP:

  • Reduced peak demand: Smart thermostat demand response programs allow TEP to reduce peak demand, which ensures adequate resources to meet our community’s needs.
  • Increased grid stability: By reducing peak demand, TEP can help maintain grid stability and prevent the need for costly infrastructure upgrades.
  • Cost savings: By reducing the need to build new power plants or transmission lines to meet peak demand, TEP can save money and pass those savings on to customers in the form of lower rates.
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