Playing With Smart Meter

How to monitor your home energy use using your smart meter and NV Energy’s webpage

Since I started this blog I’ve become an energy wonk. It’s an vitally important subject, from the global – how do we transition to generating our electricity from renewable resources? – to the most local of the local – my own home and our family budget.

NV Energy replaced customer’s analog meters with smart meters in 2011-2012. The process was not without controversy, with smart meter opponents showing up at PUC meetings to request the opportunity to opt out of the system, citing health and privacy concerns. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, about 9,000 out of 1.45 million customers have opted out of the program.

A smart meter collects energy use data digitally. Unlike traditional meters, it can transmit and receive data too. NV Energy’s smart meter records the amount of energy used every 15 minutes. Now that most customers have smart meters, how can we use them to operate our homes as energy-efficiently as possible?

I decided to find out.  To start, I went to NV Energy’s website and registered a username and and password. My account name came up, I  clicked on that and found myself on a dashboard page that gave all sorts of interesting information on how we use energy in our house.

How does my home compare?

I liked this one. In the 27 years we’ve owned our small house in Carson City, we’ve put a lot of work into making it as energy efficient as possible: we insulated the attic crawl space and water pipes, installed new dual-pane windows, switched to CFL lightbulbs and so on. It’s good to see it’s paid off.

 

Here’s what they told me: “ Congratulations! Your home uses less energy than most of the similar homes in your area matching your home energy profile.” Most energy suppliers will reward you for your low/economic consumption, so be sure to compare utilities its definitely worth it!

I wondered what used the most energy in our house, and this pie chart told me.

 

Food storage? That must be the refrigerator we bought with my first paycheck after we moved to Carson City. I clicked on “Control my costs” and got advice about how to operate my refrigerator most efficiently, and the estimated annual savings and cost of a new, energy-efficient model.

Actual Daily and Average Energy Use

 

January 31 is the day I did the laundry. Twice the kilowatt hours of the other days.

Electric Usage

I noticed my electricity usage went down this month. Why? I went to ‘Detailed Bill Comparison” and found this:

 

Energy by Day-of-Week

 

Why is Sunday so high? Must be our weekly Sunday dinner with my mom – usually we serve something that takes a long time on the stovetop or in the oven:

Show My Energy Use

 

What are those little blips between 12 am and 4 am? Must be when the refrigerator comes on.

So you want to buy green power

So you want to buy green power. You might want to live more sustainably. You might want to do your part to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Your small business might be undertaking a sustainability initiative to enhance your company’s value and market position. You might want to break free from the grid.

Whatever your reasons, you’re not alone. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports, “Individual, corporate, and institutional purchasing of renewable energy has expanded rapidly in recent years, increasing from 11.9 million megawatt hours in 2006 to 35.6 million megawatt hours in 2010.”

But how do you do it?

It’s not as easy as it should be. Whether you’re putting solar panels on your roof, buying renewable energy credits for your company, or looking for a “green” investment for part of your retirement portfolio, there are a lot of hoops to jump through – programs available in some states but not in others, arcane rules for participation, limited supply, lotteries, shady rooftops. It’s enough to make you want to give up and go with fossils.

But never fear, we’re here to help. In this 3-part series we will cover:

1. Options available in Nevada right now.
How do you get on NV Energy’s list for a rebate for rooftop solar? What about installing rooftop solar without a rebate? What is net metering and how does it work? What about NV Energy’s new optional green energy tariff? How does it compare with renewable energy credits you can buy from other companies? Do other electricity providers in Nevada – the rural electrical co-ops – have any renewable programs? What do you have to do to get off the grid entirely? And we won’t forget energy efficiency – the cheapest energy source there is.

2. Good ideas not available in Nevada
While Nevada’s doing pretty well with renewables, it lags in distributed generation – that is, in small renewable energy installations like rooftop solar. In some other states, neighborhood solar, cooperative solar ownership, and solar gardens allow co-owners to take part in net metering, incentive payments and tax deductions even if the project is not on their property. In this section we describe some of these programs and speculate about what it would take to get some of these options in Nevada.

3. Your investments: Investing in renewables and disinvesting from fossil fuels
It’s probably already abundantly clear to you that this website is not qualified to give investment advice, but just in case not, here’s the disclaimer: we will give no investment advice in this section. What we will do is cover two things: First, we’ll look at new opportunities in crowdfunding small scale renewable energy and second, we’ll review, reference, and provide links to a couple of publications from organizations that are qualified investment advisors on how and why to disinvest from fossil fuels.

We’ll post a section a week – or maybe every other week if the research takes a long time. We encourage you to get in touch by comment or email if you have questions, or topics you’d like us to cover.

Two new Nevada solar projects announced this week

Apple will partner with NV Energy in Nevada Green Energy Rider program to build 20 megawatt solar farm in Yerington

“All of Apple’s data centers use 100 percent renewable energy, and we are on track to meet that goal in our new Reno data center using the latest in high-efficiency concentrating solar panels,” Apple said in a statement. “This project will not only supply renewable energy for our data center but also provide clean energy to the local power grid, through a first-of-its-kind partnership with NV Energy.”At the northern end of the state, Apple plans to build a 20 megawatt solar farm to power its new data center complex near Reno.

Apple plans to partner with NV Energy under NV Energy’s new voluntary green energy pricing program – called the Nevada Green Energy Rider (NGR) – that offers options for residential, commercial and industrial customers to meet up to 100% of their electrical needs through purchasing renewable energy.

Apple is expected to take part in the program under a special option that will allow large commercial or industrial customers to enter into special contracts with the utility that would dedicate new or existing renewable power from a specific facility directly to the customer. The solar array will be built next to the Ft. Churchill Generating Station, just north of Yerington.

Reno Gazette Journal article here

6.2 Megawatts on roof of Mandalay Bay

Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, location of new Nevada solar project

Down in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts announced plans to build “one of the largest solar rooftop photovoltaic displays in the world” atop the Mandalay Bay Resort Convention Center. The 6.2-megawatt installation will produce around 20% of the resort’s power demand.

“Integrating environmentally responsible practices throughout our operations has been a key pillar in MGM Resorts’ strategic sustainability plan,” said Jim Murren, Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “Partnering with NRG Solar to install the solar rooftop at Mandalay Bay highlights a major milestone in our efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce our consumption of the planet’s limited resources.”

“MGM’s desire to advance environmental stewardship in support of a cleaner future speaks to the quality of the organization. At the same time, it’s an intelligent business decision. The new 20,000 panel solar rooftop array at Mandalay Bay will effectively enable the resort to lock in a substantial component of its energy costs at a very competitive rate,” said Tom Doyle, President and CEO of NRG Solar. “Our expectation is that other corporations will follow thought-leaders like MGM Resorts to protect our planet.”