Blog Archive

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Really, You Should Do the E-Bill Thing

We’ve talked about the convenience of using our e-bill system before, but there are still plenty of folks who use our internet service, but do not use the simple e-bill system. Hopefully this post will remind you of this great option available to all EPB customers. Once you have tried it, you are certain to like it!

You can sign up for e-billing in a number of ways. First, you can click on THIS LINK and follow the simple directions to set your home or business up for e-billing. You can also use the link on
LinkGlasgow’s homepage at , the e-bill link is there on the left side of the page right under the EPB logo. Just click on that e-billing logo and follow the directions to set up your account. Of course, if you want to call and talk to one of our customer service folks at 651-8341, they would be glad to help you get set up on e-billing as well.

Here is what comes with your agreement to use the e-bill system. First of all, you will not get a paper bill anymore so your home will be more neat and your trash can will be less full. Next, the e-bill system comes with its own credit card payment interface so you can go on-line and pay your bill from your credit card without incurring additional credit card processing costs from EPB. (We allow up to $1000 in credit card payments per month without charging additional fees if you use the on-line credit card system. After August 1we will be charging a labor fee of $10 per transaction if you call in on the phone to make a credit card payment!) We also give you a $1 per month credit on your bill to reflect the savings we realize from not sending out a paper bill when you sign up for e-billing.

The e-bill system also allows you to review your bill on-line and compare it to previous bills. It is a truly feature-rich and convenient way to manage your accounts with Glasgow EPB. Of course, the ultimate in convenience is to set up your account to automatically debit your checking account. This feature makes sure your bill is paid even if you forget about it or if your are out of town for a period of time. You will still get your e-bill summary long before your account is debited for the payment so you will have plenty of time to see what the bill is going to be and make sure sufficient funds are available.

If you use the internet and have an email account, there really is no reason for you to not take advantage of this service. It cuts down on the paper in your life. It reduces fuel costs associated with driving into the office to pay your EPB bill. It improves your access to information about your bills and gives you easier ways to pay your bill. If you have any questions about getting set up to utilize our e-bill system, please give us a call. We want everyone to take advantage of this powerful option!
Monday, June 20, 2011

You Can Generate Infotricity in Your Home

Get out your favorite pen, crayon, or marker and make a very large “S” and then cut out that S and lay it over on its side. You now have a graph of the power consumption in the TVA region over a one day period. Congratulations, you are now a scientist! Now your graph can be combined with the real graph of power consumption at my house on a day last week and a day last year with identical temperatures which is shown above and you can see some of the problems and opportunities for solving the issues presently confronting the power business.

Half of the time, generally during the night, power demand is too low and that means that generation plants have to be cycled back or totally shut down. The other half of the time the demand is too high and even after firing up every unit TVA has in its arsenal, they still fall far short of what is needed to meet the power demand. To keep the lights on, TVA must go out and buy additional power from its neighbors during the peak times. Both the constant cycling up and down of their plants during the daily “valley” of demand and the constant daily purchases of power during the daily “peak” cost staggering sums of money and create many other negative environmental impacts. Everyone in the power business is looking for ways to smooth the peaks and valleys of the daily load cycle in pursuit of the perfect situation – a daily load shape that would look like a flat horizontal line.

Though the perfection of that horizontal line will likely never be realized, we certainly can improve on that recumbent “S” situation we have today. Several years ago TVA made a giant move in that direction by building their Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant. This facility, just outside of Chattanooga, uses a lot of power during the valley portion of the daily demand curve by pumping water from the Tennessee River up to the top of Raccoon Mountain where TVA hollowed out the top of the mountain to create an artificial lake. This allows them to keep other base load plants operating efficiently during the night instead of shutting them down. Once the lake is full, TVA can turn the pumps into electric generators and drain the lake back down into the river while generating about 1,600 mW of power to offset the peak portion of the next day’s load curve. It is a brilliant project. It works as designed. Today, TVA needs several more of these projects to help further flatten the daily load shape.

In Glasgow we have discovered that they might accomplish this without any construction crews and without hollowing out another mountain. It turns out we all have a little Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant in our home! Over the last couple of hot weeks I have been experimenting with programmable thermostats and general changes of power consumption habits in my home and the graphic included here represents the sort of change I have been able to accomplish during a recent 24 hour period (the reddish line) compared to a similar day when I made no effort to shift my consumption (the blue line). Like Raccoon Mountain, I stored energy during the off-peak hours by heating water and pre-cooling my home below our normal set-point. During on-peak hours, instead of draining an artificial lake, we allowed the temperature to rise to 78 degrees and we refrained from running clothes drying and dishwashing. The resulting difference in on-peak power usage at my house last year (the blue line) and this year (the red line) is pretty stunning. As you can see, compared to a day with the same temperatures but without any effort being made to avoid on-peak hours, my simple changes resulted in an average on-peak power reduction of about 4 kW. This is a very big deal.

Now, my measly 4 kW is totally insignificant compared to Raccoon Mountain’s capacity of 1,600,000 kW, but this is 2011 and a lot more is possible by using the latest technology. Today all of the homes which harbor these little bits of Raccoon Mountain can be connected via the internet. In those homes the thermostats, water heaters, appliances, and electric meters can also be connected to create a virtual power plant many times larger than Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant. Let’s do the math. Let’s say that the average on-peak demand reduction capacity is only half of what I have been able to accomplish at my house. So, if 2 kW is available in each home and since TVA serves roughly 4 million homes, then about 8,000,000 kW is possibly available in our virtual pumped storage plant! That means we discovered five pumped storage plants of the same size as Raccoon Mountain in our homes! It means that this capacity is available basically for free. It means that this capacity would require no fuel, would generate no greenhouse gases, and would require not one shovel of earth to be disturbed to tap that capacity. Who knew we were hiding infotricity generators in our houses?

Accomplishing the on-peak reduction depicted here in my house was not without some sacrifice. When the house is being pre-cooled to about 72, it can get a little chilly. In the afternoon when it is allowed to warm to 78, it is noticeably warm. We have to remember to run the dishwasher and clothes dryer after 8:00 p.m. and to not use the electric oven in the afternoons. But really, after a couple of weeks the changes are not much of a burden and when you compare the possible benefit of gaining all of this clean energy from simple changes in habit, the burden/benefit ratio is ridiculously canted toward the benefit side. We have been talking about infotricity as a replacement for today’s electric power for many years. Now we have more proof that it is viable. As soon as we learn how to compensate everyone for generating this infotricity and making it available to TVA, every electric power user may also become an owner of the most efficient generation technology ever devised. We are convinced this is a real possibility and we continue to have you to thank for giving us the latitude to explore these ideas.
Friday, June 3, 2011

More Time Of Use Rate Information

Since June 1 you have likely seen or heard some of our discussion about Time Of Use (TOU) electric rates and how all EPB electric customers can help save the community a lot of money by shifting power usage on weekdays away from the hours of noon until 8:00 p.m. This information has caused us to get some questions and this post is intended to answer them.

First and foremost, the new rate is not being directly applied to anyone at their home or business in Glasgow. The new rate is applicable only to Glasgow EPB for the power we buy from TVA for our customers to use in Glasgow. Of course, if we have to pay it, that means we have to collect the money from our customers. The plea we are making is for you to cut back your afternoon usage of energy so that we can minimize rate adjustments which are necessary to cover the wholesale rates TVA charges us. Our plea for community action is to save the community money.

The idea of TOU rates did not originate with TVA. This rate concept is a long held response to real world events relative to electric power supply versus the demand for electric power. In a very real sense, we have all created the need for TOU rates. We celebrate growth. We are gleeful at the opening of a new big box store in our community even though it consumes gobs of energy. The same goes for the expansion of an industry or the construction of a new school, but we don’t feel the same about the construction of a new nuclear or coal fired generation plant in our town (or anyone else’s for that matter). Therein lies the problem. We celebrate the growth of electric demand but if anyone is paying attention to the news, all of the announcements from the electric utility industry seem to be about decisions to shut down existing generation plants and defer the construction of new ones. This is an inconvenient truth, but a truth nonetheless. We all face a future in which electric power is in shorter supply than it was in the past.

This short supply of energy might not be as ominous as it sounds. In reality, we still have plenty of supply most of the time. In the summer, the exception happens to be on weekdays, from about noon until about 8:00 p.m. During those hours TVA presently depends on its neighbors as TVA does not have adequate generation capacity to make all of the electric power we are demanding. When they go to the neighbors, the neighbors can demand whatever the market will bear for the power TVA purchases from them. As a result, the power is very expensive. This situation will only get worse in the coming years as TVA recently announced plans to shut down several more of their coal fired generation plants.

Now, different utilities have chosen different ways to pay the added expense of this “on-peak” energy. The most popular and simplest habit is to simply move these extra expenses into an account and charge for the purchased power through a monthly “fuel cost adjustment.” No matter whether you get your power from EPB, FRECC, or KU, you have been paying this fuel cost adjustment so, in effect, you have already been paying sort of a TOU rate for years – it just was not called that. The problem with this method is that it socializes the cost of electric power. It provides no incentive for folks to operate more efficiently and move load away from the on-peak time. Instead, all costs are evenly spread across all customers in the form of rate increases. This disguises the truth and penalizes all for inefficiency that could be corrected if folks were given enough information and incentives. After all, if energy is the same cost no matter what time of day it is used, why would anyone take action to move away from the hot afternoon hours with their consumption?

TVA and Glasgow EPB are moving in the direction of providing information and incentives as an opportunity for folks interested in saving money and living more efficiently. This move is not meant to be punishing nor are we forcing folks to swelter on hot summer afternoons. We do not plan to ever force anyone to move to a TOU retail rate, but we do plan on giving those who are interested in modifying their consumption patterns a reward for that change. Those who are not interested in this will likely always have the option of ignoring TOU, but they should be prepared to continue the upward spiral of energy cost. Living in a world of cheap and abundant energy as we have for the last fifty years, is simply no longer going to be an option.

So, all of this discussion about TOU rates is about Glasgow getting prepared for a future that we feel is coming just as predictably as the changing of the seasons. We have invested in a broadband network and advanced electric meters capable of exchanging information between us and your home around the clock. We believe we can work together to change the way energy is used in Glasgow and exploit the coming changes in the rates we pay. We are working to make our community sustainable in whatever fashion that the coming changes in energy supply and weather present themselves. We feel that we are ahead of other communities in preparing for the future. If any of this still leaves you confused, just let us hear from you.