Commentary: In a recent Sun-News article New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner Sandy Jones was quoted as saying that El Paso Electric’s eSmart Thermostat Program “…is an effort to minimize the number of additional plants the utility company has to build and maintain just to turn on for a few peak hours each year.” While eStart is a step in the right direction, it will do little to accomplish that goal in the short term. It is not designed to reduce peak demand, but rather to determine if some future thermostat control program could reduce peak demand.
And that possible future program is a long way off. eSmart is designed to produce data over a three year period ending in 2019 - too late to stop construction of a 281 megawatt plant EPE predicts it will soon be buying in order to have operating in 2022. And, without a peak reduction program, the company predicts another 1006 megawatts of new plants will be needed by 2034!
We need a plan to reduce peak demand and we need it now! One idea is a Time of Use rate with a demand response feature; customers shift their electrical usage away from peak times, and agree to reduce their load any time EPE sees a high demand. Such a program would be automated to minimize inconvenience. Customers would receive a low off peak rate that would allow them to save significant money. And a real reduction in peak load would reduce and delay the need for new power plants, saving money for everyone.
By pushing for such a rate in the upcoming rate case, and then signing up to help reduce peak demand, we can work together toward Commissioner Jones’ goal of fewer expensive new power plants and toward lower rates for all.