Jul 17, 2015

How energy-conscious homeowners can receive incentives from utility companies

Adam Groff
3 min
A growing number of utility companies are rewarding c...

A growing number of utility companies are rewarding customers for cutting down on their A/C usage during the summer months.

By reducing A/C usage and overall home energy consumption, both utility companies and homeowners are saving money—and the environment.

[Related: Why utilities should engage their customers]

Here are just a few incentives utility companies are offering to homeowners for cutting their energy usage:

A/C Replacement Rebates

One of the biggest energy eaters in any household are air conditioning systems. Cooling a home – especially during the hot summer months – can raise energy usage upwards of 70 percent.

That's why more and more utility companies across the country are offering replacement rebates for homeowners who upgrade to energy efficient A/C systems.

[Related: Dropping utility costs without interrupting service]

These utility rebates cover a number of different A/C systems:

  • HVAC Replacement Rebate—Homeowners in participating states who replace their entire air conditioning and heat pump system can receive up to an $850 rebate on their new unit.
  • A/C Downsize Rebate—Many homeowners have air conditioning systems that are simply too large for their homes. As a result, utility companies are offering a $300 rebate for A/C size/tonnage reductions.
  • AquaChill Upgrade Incentives—As the following article looks at, current homeowners and homebuyers making summer moves on a budget can upgrade their A/C system to an AquaChill unit. These units pre-cool a standard air conditioner's refrigerant coils with misting water. Utility companies are offering homeowners rebates and attractive financing for choosing this energy reduction option, which helps lower electric bills over time.

Attic Insulation Incentives

A large part of the energy efficiency of a home is its level of attic insulation: Without the proper amount of attic insulation, air conditioners have to work extra hard to cool interior spaces. This, of course, results in increased energy usage and higher electric bills.

[Related: Electricity Consumption Up, But Lower at Per-Household Level]

To help reduce this unnecessary energy usage, participating utility companies are offering homeowners attic insulation replacement rebates.

By replacing old attic insulation with R-38 grade insulation or greater, utility companies are offering homeowners substantial rebates per square-foot of attic space.

Wireless Thermostat Incentives

Utility companies across the country are quickly realizing how beneficial wireless thermostats are when it comes to home energy efficiency.With wireless thermostats, homeowners are able adjust their air conditioners from anywhere using their smart phones.

[Related: Why only utilities that go digital will survive]

Utility companies are encouraging homeowners to purchase energy-efficient wireless thermostats by offering reduced pricing and free installation.

The utility industry is behind the push for wireless thermostats because they allow homeowners to fine-tune their systems from anywhere as opposed to running them around the clock.

Home Performance Programs

A growing number of local utility companies are offering home performance programs in order to reduce energy usage. Also referred to as energy audits, these programs are low or no cost and help homeowners discover energy problems in their home.

[Related: German utilities prepare for future energy sector dominated by Apple and Google]

Whether it's insufficient attic insulation, outdated windows, an oversized A/C unit, leaky air ducts, or conditioned air loss due to damaged / missing weather stripping, home performance programs are helping utility companies reduce local energy consumption through homeowner awareness.

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About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including the utilities industry and the environment

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Jul 26, 2021

Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Ofwat confirms levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue

Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.

The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.

Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.  

In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue. 

Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”  

There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:   

  1. Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps. 
  2. Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold. 
  3. Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice. 

Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.

Anita Dougall, CEO and Founding Partner at Sagacity, said Ofwat’s decision comes hot on the heels of Ofgem’s price cap rise in April.

"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.

"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."

United Utilities picks up pipeline award

A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.

The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.

“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.

Camus Energy secures $16m funding

Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent VenturesWave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.

As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.

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