What We Learned: Smart Thermostat Program

MGE is studying data from the demand response program.

Both spring and summer 2018 saw some hot stretches, making it an ideal time for MGE to test the use of smart thermostats to reduce our community's demand for electricity. Hundreds of customers have partnered with us in our Smart Thermostat Demand Response program launched with Nest last year.

The program allows Nest to make temperature adjustments of no more than three degrees to participating customers' smart thermostats during periods of peak demand, typically late afternoon during the hottest summer days. Customers receive notifications either on their smart thermostat or mobile device ahead of time, allowing them the option of overriding the minor increase on their thermostat.

Like "rush hour" on a highway

Nest ThermostatNest calls its program "Rush Hour Rewards." Peak demand on the electric grid is like rush hour traffic on a highway—heavy volume in a short period of time.

MGE's partnership with Nest gives us the opportunity to schedule "events" when temperatures reach 85°F or more. During these events, which last up to four hours at a time, Nest is able to remotely increase the temperature setting on participants' smart thermostats.

MGE is studying the results of these events throughout the last two summers. The data show most participating customers allowed the increases to their household thermostats.

Collective efforts like this one to reduce individual energy use put less stress on the electric grid during utilities' "rush hour." If we can reduce demand during peak periods, we can lower long-term costs for all customers. Utilities need enough generation, such as power plants, wind farms and solar installations, to meet peak demand. By reducing peak, we reduce the need for additional generating units.

"We are thankful to our customers who enrolled in this program. They're helping us understand how this technology can be used to better manage our community grid and how they want to work with us using new, smart technologies," said Cheri Salmon, MGE market development manager.

By working together to advance energy efficiency and conservation, we can create a more sustainable future for our community. As a "reward," participating customers each received $75 in gift cards throughout the course of the program.

Smart thermostat incentive

If you've been thinking about upgrading your thermostat, now is the time. Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program is offering a $75 incentive on smart thermostats for eligible MGE customers. To learn more, visit focusonenergy.com/smart.

published: Aug-30-2018