Some JEA Customers Will Track Power Use; Federal Stimulus Money Helping Utility Launch the Online Service

By Patterson, Steve | The Florida Times Union, October 31, 2009 | Go to article overview

Some JEA Customers Will Track Power Use; Federal Stimulus Money Helping Utility Launch the Online Service


Patterson, Steve, The Florida Times Union


Byline: STEVE PATTERSON

Wonder how much power your house is burning right this minute?

JEA might be looking for you soon.

The city-owned utility is getting federal stimulus money to launch a pilot online service that would let some customers track their electricity use via their cell phones throughout the day.

Those customers could also sign up for a new billing system that would charge different rates at different times of day.

It's an early step in an approach that utilities nationally hope will save money, both for them and for customers willing to turn off dishwashers or other power hogs until times of day when there's less demand for energy.

"If it's done society-wide, you save a tremendous amount of money," said Alexander Domijan, a University of South Florida electrical engineering professor who runs a research center on new energy issues.

Backers say that could change the way people think about their power bills and potentially cut air pollution by letting utilities meet customer demands while running fewer power plants at any one time.

But first, utilities have to change some equipment for monitoring people's accounts.

"We only use that once a month for billing. Now, you're talking about using it every couple of hours," said Randy Boswell, a JEA vice president.

JEA's pilot service would only be available to about 3,000 customers during the next two or three years, and the utility would use that experience to decide whether to expand it.

There would still be about a two-hour lag from the moment a switch is flipped until the power use shows up on a customer's hourly readout.

A 90-day archive of readouts would let people see for themselves when their house uses the most energy, then think about what they're doing with it. …

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