Efficient Smart: A megawatt savings in energy and costsApr 09, 2021 12:25PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
Right now – and very likely while you read this magazine article -- the Town of Middletown is undergoing two methods of managing its energy and electric supply.
The first, and certainly the most visible, is seen in the work of the town’s electric department, whose engineers and foremen maintain the town’s municipal electric system. They are everywhere, climbing poles and digging beneath the ground to maintain and upgrade the town’s wastewater and water treatment facilities, keep its streetlights glowing, and installing new electric infrastructure to homes and businesses.
The other method is one not nearly as visible but whose impact on conserving the energy grid in the town has been significant.
It is happening in the homes and businesses that collectively make Middletown the growing community it is. It is upgrading outdated household appliances like air conditioning units, washing machines and refrigerators. It is removing incandescent lighting from office spaces and replacing them with LED bulbs.
Most importantly, it is an initiative whose momentum – and subsequent effectiveness -- is being driven by the people.
The Town of Middletown, in partnership with the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC) and American Municipal Power (AMP), is offering the Efficiency Smart program in an effort to help its residents and businesses reduce their energy use and save money. With a quick phone call, any homeowner or business in Middletown can arrange to have a representative from DEMEC and AMP pay a free visit to a home or office and provide recommendations on energy improvements that can be made from the boardroom to the basement.
Conserving kilowatt hours
For businesses, DEMEC provides technical assistance and financial incentives to encourage the installation of energy-efficient technologies, and identify, assess and validate energy efficiency projects. In addition, DEMEC staff works across the supply chain and within communities to build relationships with contractors and retailers, to link energy users to discounts on energy-efficient lighting and rebates for energy-saving appliances.
“It’s all about our partners at DEMEC looking at current processes and seeing opportunities to save money and increase efficiency,” said Morris Deputy, Middletown’s town manager. “It’s about telling someone, ‘You can do this to your electric panel and save a thousand kilowatt hours a month.’ It’s recommendations like this that end up saving kilowatt hours for the duration of the homeowner’s stay in his or her home, or for the remaining life of the business.”
Middletown is one of eight cities and towns DEMEC supports across Delaware, serving a population of over 137,000. Other towns enrolled in the three-year Efficiency Smart program include the town of Clayton, the Lewes Board of Public Works, the Milford Electric Department, the Newark Electric Department, the Municipal Services Commission in New Castle, the Seaford Municipal Utilities and the Smyrna Electric Department.
Reaching energy-saving goals
Middletown’s agreement with the Efficiency Smart program through DEMEC and AMP extends to May 2022, which means local homeowners and businesses still have a year to enroll in the program. So far, the program has proven to be popular; to date, there have been 2,205 household items in Middletown that have been upgraded since the program started in 2019.
“Our goal in the three year period was to save 1,845 megawatt hours, and the last report, we have achieved about 56 percent of that goal -- 1,034 megawatt hours to date -- so we’re on target to achieving that goal,” Deputy said.
Translated, that’s enough to provide electricity to 124 homes for one year, or the equivalent of eliminating carbon emissions from 805,549 pounds of coal being burned.
Scott Lynch, DEMEC’s vice president of asset development, said that while the positive numbers reflect that the Efficiency Smart program is working, they are made more legitimate by effective record keeping.
“When the state was setting its goals for energy efficiency, it was DEMEC at the table, and we were the first agency to initiate energy efficiency programs, and the first to bring those programs to verification,” Lynch said. “While the numbers we are seeing for the Efficiency Smart program are incredible, they don’t mean as much unless they are verified.
“We’re not just doing a lot of hand-waving with this initiative. We put our numbers under scrutiny, and deliver the data, based on that scrutiny.”
The efforts being made by Middletown to lessen the demand on the town’s power grid coincide with the continuing surge in its population, which now stands at close to 24,000, and has increased 27 percent since 2010. With each passing year, the area’s landscape is becoming more reflective of a development growth that shows no sign of slowing down.
With a population density that now stands at more than 2,000 per square mile, full engagement in the Efficiency Smart program is not only advantageous to energy conservation in Middletown, it is crucial.
“There really isn’t a reason not to enroll in the Efficiency Smart program,” Deputy said. “It all comes down to people who are concerned about the amount of power that’s being generated from their home or businesses, and whether they take action on those concerns.
“When it comes to energy use, we must be both smart, and efficient, and this program saves the customer money, saves the Town of Middletown money, it helps the environment, and lowers the demand on our electrical system.”
Lynch is confident that future growth and the energy that will be needed to support that growth will continue to be answered by a more educated public.
“There is a growing social consciousness in this state and in this country about being efficient, green, environmentally aware, and having those tools available to meet the needs and wants of members of the community has allowed DEMEC to remain ahead of the game in this regard,” he said. “With the growth of the community, there is infrastructure that needs to be out in place that carries a cost with it. When you expand the infrastructure, that’s additional costs for a community to incur in order to allow that growth to occur.
“By having programs in place that can reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency, you can take existing infrastructure and prolong its life, and enable it to be more capable of helping the community, rather than building an entirely new infrastructure.”
To arrange for an Efficiency Smart visit to your home or business, call Efficiency Smart at (877) 889-3777. To learn more about the Efficiency Smart program, visit the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation website at www.demecinc.net, or visit www.efficiencysmart.org.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].
Energy saving ideas for homeowners
The following is a list of tips from the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation
Switch to LED lighting
Turn off lights/electronics in empty rooms and when they are not being used
Adjust your thermostat by 2-3 degrees, especially while you are away
Open blinds/curtains to allow natural light and heat into your home during the day (when cool outside)
Try making meals without using the oven or stove
Do not stand with the refrigerator/freezer door open for long
Lower the temperature of your hot water heater
Replace HVAC filters monthly
Unplug chargers and turn off power strips when devices are not in use
Use a fan to help move cool air throughout a room