April – Energy Trends – A Multi-Layered Approach

As we celebrate Wake Electric’s 75th anniversary, we’ll try to put that history into perspective by highlighting some of the most popular energy trends from decades past.

Electrification – “Live Better Electrically” (Starting in the 1950s) – Over the years, Wake Electric has encouraged members to consider using electricity for new things. Sixty years ago, we were offering special rates and cooking classes for using your new electric stove. Our original customer service office in Wake Forest, built back in the 1950s, actually had a “demonstration” electric kitchen off the lobby. Later, we encouraged members to consider switching to electric heat pumps to heat their homes. Now, most members use electricity for many uses that were once considered novel: lighting, refrigeration, well pumps, cooking, water heating, laundry, and heating/cooling.

Conservation (Mainly since the late 1970’s) – Many members try to conserve electricity by avoiding waste, turning off lights and adjusting their heating/cooling thermostat. All residential members have on-line access (SmartHub) to hourly usage data to help identify conservation opportunities. The most effective way to conserve is to switch over the pre-pay and over 1,100 Wake Electric members have already done so. National studies indicate most folks that pre-pay for electricity use 10% less.

Energy Efficiency (New standards starting in the 1980s) – Many homes are much more energy efficient than in the past. Better construction and insulation, more efficient lighting, appliances and heating/cooling systems all contribute to improved energy efficiency. Most homes can become even more energy efficient but at some point, additional investments produce diminishing returns. We think a good general rule is that investments in energy efficiency should pay for themselves in 7 to 10 years. Again, access to hourly usage data (SmartHub & Green Button) provided free by Wake Electric can provide the data to make good decisions.

Renewables (Mostly since 2005) – Many large solar farms have been built in eastern North Carolina, due primarily to favorable federal and state tax credits. Wake Electric has helped with the financial feasibility of 23 of these large solar projects by signing long-term contracts to purchase the solar renewable energy credits associated with more than 75 million kWh annually. That’s the equivalent of more than 10,000 residential scale solar installations.Residential scale rooftop solar projects continue to have less economic benefits with the average installed cost per watt more than double that of larger projects.

From Wake Electric’s perspective, this 75 year history reflects a fairly complex multi-layered approach. All of these trends or layers play a role in how members think about their energy options. Some members concentrate on one trend while others might use a combination of all four to find an approach that feels right for them.

Questions about energy trends? Suggestions for future topics? Please respond to MAC@wemc.com.