Lower Summer Bills, New Smart Meters Help O&R Beat the Heat
Energy Efficiency Programs Also Aid Customers in Managing Power Use
Orange & Rockland (O&R) is forecasting that typical Rockland residential customers will pay nearly 10 percent lower electric bills this summer compared with last summer due to a drop in energy supply costs.
The typical O&R residential customer in Rockland County using an average of 600 kWh of electricity per month last summer saw, on average, a monthly electric bill, which consists of both electric supply and delivery costs, of $142.96. That monthly bill in the summer of 2019 is expected to decrease 9.5 percent, on average, or $13.63 to $129.33. O&R buys electricity on the wholesale market and provides it to customers at cost.
O&R has prepared to meet high summer demand for electricity with continued investments in projects that improve electric service reliability and the further development of energy efficiency programs that help customers use less energy, save money and reduce their carbon footprint.
To prepare for this summer’s peak demands for electricity, O&R has made investments totaling over $145 million this year to fortify and improve the reliability of its electric system. That investment builds on the nearly $1 billion O&R has invested over the past 10 years on electric system maintenance and reliability projects.
The leader of O&R’s electric service reliability line up this summer is the smart meter program. Smart meters, which already serve about 70 million customers nationwide, are safe, secure and reliable encrypted devices that provide two-way, wireless communication between O&R and its customers’ energy service.
Smart meters’ benefits go beyond power monitoring to provide individuals greater control over their energy consumption. Customers will be able to see when their consumption fluctuates and can then take action to further manage their usage. The smart meters also facilitate quicker restoration of service after a storm event by communicating the precise location of service interruptions. Since 2017, O&R has invested approximately $75 million in this project in New York.
Since the installation began in the summer of 2017, company and contractor crews have installed approximately 103,300 (90 percent) electric smart meters and over 74,425 (81 percent) smart meter modules for gas meters in Rockland County. Between 300 and 500 meters are installed each day.
O&R plans to install a total of 115,500 electric smart meters and 92,000 smart gas modules in Rockland County by the end of 2019.
Overall, O&R plans to install 230,000 electric smart meters and 134,450 smart gas modules in its New York service area by the end of 2020.
O&R also continues to further automate its electric system through smart grid technological improvements. The smart grid integrates state-of-the-art equipment and technology with advances in computer analysis, communications, monitoring and control to significantly enhance system reliability, efficiency and overall quality of service. The program’s goal is to remotely isolate a problem on the system to reduce its impact on customers.
For example, “smart” operating equipment --- communication systems, automated switches, sensors and other “intelligent” devices --- enables the electric system to detect where issues on the circuit exist and automatically isolate those issues. This isolated section of the circuit would remain out of service until repairs are made, but the remainder of the circuit --- often serving hundreds of other customers --- would remain energized, providing uninterrupted service to those customers.
Another new project that will play a critical electric reliability role for customers this summer is O&R’s installation this month of a new 525MVA electric transformer at O&R’s Hillburn substation. This unit converts high voltage electricity from the overhead transmission system to a lower voltage that can be channeled into the community’s electric distribution system. The $2.7 million giant, which weighs over 200 tons, was custom-made in the Netherlands and shipped here in February.
O&R also is pursuing a strategy to provide additional storm protection at specific key electric system locations. These storm-resilience electric system improvements include building additional electric circuits and undergrounding selective system-critical locations where multiple overhead circuits are present on distribution poles. Taller, stronger poles and more storm resistant wire also are being installed at key locations. These improvements have already made a positive impact on customers.
In addition, several operational steps --- from pro-active system maintenance and construction to close monitoring and rapid response to heat-related electric system concerns on high-heat days --- also are key in O&R’s delivering safe and reliable electric service this summer.
These steps include line clearance work in the form of specific tree-trimming projects, infrared inspections and transmission line aerial and foot patrols and distribution equipment testing and inspections.
To help its customers use electricity this summer as wisely as possible, O&R is promoting a number of energy efficiency programs for residential, small business and commercial and industrial customers.
Among those programs is O&R’s online store. The My ORU Store is a digital marketplace that offers O&R’s residential customers a wide variety of energy-saving household products including LED lights, water/energy saving devices, advanced power strips, smart thermostats and connected home products. Home services are available from local customer-recommended contractors offering a/c and furnace tune ups and thermostat installations. The My ORU Store makes saving energy and money, both easy and affordable.
Eligible New York customers can receive instant rebates when they purchase energy-saving products and services on the My ORU Store and can receive additional rebates when they enroll their smart thermostat in O&R’s innovative Bring Your Own Thermostat program.
O&R developed these programs to more closely align its energy-efficiency efforts with the New York State Public Service Commission’s (PSC) initiatives to modernize the state’s energy utility industry.
Since 2009, 33,000 customers using these programs have saved 173,000 MWh of electricity, 128,000 Dth of natural gas, reduced peak electric demand by over 38 MW and have reduced carbon emissions by 500,000 tons.
That 173,000 MWh is enough energy to power over 21,000 homes, and that 500,000 tons of carbon is equivalent to taking 106,000 cars off the road. The 38 MWs of peak electric demand is enough to meet the peak demand needs of six Palisades Malls.
To learn more about O&R energy efficiency programs, visit www.oru.com/save.