wakefield observer
Wakefield residents can volunteer for electricity-saving program

By Vladimir Shvorin/wakefield@cnc.com
Fri Jan 22, 2010

Wakefield - Wakefield will be joining six other towns across Massachusetts in a groundbreaking pilot program to save on household electricity costs through a Web-based software.

The Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department will be coordinating the endeavor, while Braintree, Danvers, Hingham, North Attleboro and Wellesley, the other towns involved with the program, will deal with their respective municipal electric companies. GroundedPower, the developers of the software, will offer real-time monitoring, adjustments and statistics of electricity usage to all participants at no cost.

Each town will elect 50 households for the pilot program, for a total of 300 homes across the state.

Currently, 100 homes in Cape Cod are already using GroundedPower’s software and seeing a significant reduction in their monthly utility costs. Carl Gustin, president of the company, told that the initial research coming out has been promising.

“So far we’re seeing that the pilot program in Cape Cod is resulting in an average savings of about 13 percent,” said Gustin. “People are using about 13 percent less electricity each month, compared to the previous year.”

WMGLD General Manager Peter Dion said he was eager to participate in what he characterized as a low-cost, worthwhile investment. If the program is deemed successful, Dion said, a widespread implementation will be considered.

“We’re entering the pilot with other municipalities, and [costs are] all shared across six utilities,” said Dion. “The cost of the pilot was $12,500, and we have a grant application with the state to hopefully cut that in half, if it’s approved. So half of this will be funded by state money. All of this is very beneficial to us.”

Through the software, each household can check detailed, real-time information about its energy consumption. A total of 150 tasks can be performed, all impacting the energy savings and costs. Additionally, an online forum has been provided for participants, where they can discuss their experience with the program and all of its facets.

“We’ve been getting a very strong and positive reaction from the customers on the Cape,” said Gustin. “We’re finding that they’re using the system regularly; they’re signing into the Web site an average of three times a week. They’re using it actively to select various tasks and actions to save energy. And they’re sharing a lot of information with each other, through the social network that is part of the software.”

Wakefield households are still being sought to participate in the program, and WMGLD has only recently started publicizing it. And while sustainability is the goal, GroundedPower’s software, still in the preliminary stages of testing, is largely unproven.

“[The pilot] is more about information-gathering than anything,” commented Dion. “We need to find out who in this town is interested in programs like this. But we already have our list of people that might be interested as we go forward. Also, we want to learn more about how effective a program like this is.”

Gustin also addressed questions regarding the electric companies’ motivation to participate – and at least partially fund - a program that seemingly reduces their customers’ average monthly utility bill.

“If a utility can reduce its demand for electricity in peak periods, particularly during the summer months, it reduces the overall cost to consumers and really benefits everyone, including itself,” said Gustin. “All of the stakeholders benefit from being able to reduce peak demand. Additionally, if we become more efficient, we can defer the need for large expenditures in infrastructure upgrades.”