The utility, which has deployed most of its smart meters to its 1.4 million metered sites, has been focusing on the residential side of its smart grid program for years.
EcoFactor’s service will be offered as the NV Energy mPowered brand. The goal is to get at least 20 megawatts of peak load reduction, which would need about 7,500 households to pick up the service before next summer. After the initial 20 megawatts, additional demand response using EcoFactor could be rolled out.
A Las Vegas pilot in 2010 garnered 36 percent better results than traditional residential DR programs, which might raise the temperature up to four degrees -- just enough that people might start to notice and complain. EcoFactor, on the other hand, keeps the temperature within one degree of preferred temps through pre-cooling using weather, air conditioner capacity, and the thermal storage capacity of each individual home. The pilots saved 13 percent of cooling cost for customers, the equivalent of about 3 kilowatts per home of demand response.
Roy Johnson, CEO of EcoFactor, noted his company is also working with Reliant, but the NV Energy expansion is its largest utility deal so far. Still, all of its work with utilities doesn’t hold a candle to a deal EcoFactor inked with cable giant Comcast early in 2012.
Comcast has tens of millions of customers and, even though it has been faulted for its customer service in the past, cable companies overall have a closer relationship with their customers than utilities. For Comcast, adding in home automation -- which includes security and controls, such as EcoFactor’s service -- is just another layered offering, while the move into the home is a first for many utilities.
For some utilities, it is attractive to watch other companies build energy management offerings in the home that can then be leveraged for demand response. San Diego Gas & Electric is working with Alarm.com and EnergyHub to leverage two-way thermostats in its region for its Reduce Your Use program.
EcoFactor said its service will be offered as part of Comcast’s Xfinity offering in early 2013.
--- In other news, EnTouch Controls, which focuses on the small business energy space, has been picked up by energy retailer Green Mountain Energy, which will offer EnTouch’s energy management system to its small business customers by offering an on-bill financing program to help pay for the system. Customers are seeing savings of 10 percent to 20 percent.
The EnTouch energy management system includes a touch-screen wireless thermostat that controls and monitors the HVAC and the ability to control large loads on the circuit level. There is also a web portal for owners to do data reporting and set up alerts.
Although large commercial and industrial customers still make up the bulk of demand response megawatts, creative utilities are looking for new offerings that can improve customer service, such as more energy services -- or they are looking for the long tail of demand response, which means dipping into residential and small business customers.