The heat is back, and that's pushing power plants to the limit. Duke Energy is testing a new way to trim demand – with a competition that challenges customers to turn off the A/C on days when electricity demand is highest. Monday was one of those days.
Over the weekend, Duke Energy emailed about 26,000 North Carolina customers with a simple request: To turn off air conditioners and major appliances during the hottest part of the day - 2:30 to 6 p.m.
The company is picking days when the mercury hits the mid-90s or more. (Monday's afternoon high was 96.) About one-third of those emailed joined the first challenge July 14. They saved about 15 percent on average. Duke spokesman Tim Pettit said a few saved 85 percent or more.
"What we’re learning is that awareness is a big part of the battle," Pettit said. "What I would also say about the Summer Saver Challenge is there’s a little bit of a competitive nature in all of us."
In return, customers save a little bit on their bills. And they get stats, comparing their savings with neighbors. Duke doesn’t have to generate as much electricity at the peak, and avoids the risk of blackouts.
Duke says you can cut energy use by "pre-cooling" your house in the morning, then shutting off A/C in the afternoon. Another tip: Keep your shades closed. And if you hold off on the laundry, you can still do it at night, when energy use is a lot lower.
Pettit says Duke plans several more challenges this summer.
Energy saving tips on the Duke Energy website.