By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — National Grid will use Clifton Park as a testing ground for a new, modernized initiative meant to reduce energy use and give customers greater control over their utility bills.
Starting in March, National Grid will start to install upgraded, “smart” meters that will allow customers to track energy usage in close to real time online, change their payment plans, and receive energy conservation tips. Theoretically, the new system will allow residents to save money due to the fact that they’ll now receive “high bill” alerts when their energy usage is going up, prior to when they have to pay their actual bill. Residents could also win gift cards if they work on decreasing their energy use during times of high-energy demand. The company has estimated that it will install the new meters for approximately 14,000 area customers.
“When you open up your utility bill now, you know how much energy you used last month,” said Kimberly Ireland, National Grid’s account manager for the project. “With this program, and once the portal is up and running, they’ll be able to see their energy consumption yesterday.”
The program, called Smart Energy Solutions, is being rolled out in Clifton Park first and could be brought to other communities in New York if it succeeds there.
“It’s basically a test,” said Patrick Stella, a National Grid spokesman. “If we provide customers with information, is there the ability to lower the overall system demand and energy use?”
Residents will receive a notification from National Grid regarding when their meter will be replaced. But, even though the meter replacement is free, customers are able to call National Grid up until Tuesday, Feb. 28 and request that their meters not be changed.
“We’re trying to give customers as much choice as possible,” Stella said.
“Customers absolutely can opt out,” Ireland said. “It’s our hope that they don’t, of course, because we do want to see this work.”
The company is aiming to be finished with all the installations by June.
The smart meters were created in conjunction with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide energy reformation strategy, called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) Initiative. In February of 2015, the New York Public Service Commission ordered the six largest investor owner electric utilities in the state, including National Grid, to develop projects that utilize the aspects of the REV, which include developing new energy products.
National Grid’s preliminary budget for the three years of the project amounted to approximately $26 million.
The point of the program, said Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett at the last Clifton Park Town Board meeting, is to examine people’s energy usage and gauge whether the new tracking tools will cause people to change their energy use habits.
“What they’d like to do, is even out the energy usage within their entire system. They build out a system for peak times, say during very cold months, or very warm months, when people are using a lot of energy. What they’d like to do is even those peaks out as much as possible because it does put less stress on their system, and would eventually reduce the cost of delivering energy for the energy companies and hopefully in turn, reduce the price for consumers.”
Barrett reiterated that the program is free for consumers, and that all lingering questions about the program will be answered as National Grid sends out more information.
*Gazette Reporter Ned Campbell contributed to this story.