Member Advisory Committee (MAC) meetings & news

Our next Member Advisory Committee (MAC) meetings will be held in the fall, usually in October.  Details will follow as we get closer to the meeting dates.

For our January MAC meetings, more than 150 members attended and were given updates on the energy industry, renewable energy, and the growth of Wake Electric. Each meeting included a catered dinner as well as several drawings for $25 credits on electric bills.  If you have questions about future MAC Meetings, please contact Darnell Alford, Business Operations Specialist, at 919-863-6312 or via e-mail at darnell.alford@wemc.com.


What are MAC meetings?

These information meetings are Wake Electric’s way of helping our members understand the trends and topics affecting their co-op and the energy industry.  These informal meetings are open to all members and feature drawings for $25 electric bill credits and a catered dinner. To learn more about the MAC community or upcoming meetings, contact Darnell Alford, business operations specialist at 919.863.6312 or 800.474.6300 or via email at darnell.alford@wemc.com.

Online MAC community

Each month, the co-op shares energy industry content to interested members about a specific topic.  We also want to provide an opportunity for feedback, just as with our in-person MAC meetings.  The MAC is not a social media or political action program, although it has elements as both.  It is a grassroots program, though not seen as a call-to-action channel.  However, if the issue warrants, we could use it for that purpose.

Past topics have included:  LED lighting, renewables, smart grid, energy efficiency, electric rates and much, much more.

Members can sign up to receive these monthly topics by emailing MAC@wemc.com.


MAC community topics: news & info. on the energy industry, renewable energy, policy, and much more as it relates to Wake Electric.

2018

May – Energy Trends— Renewables:  We originally posted a four-part series on energy trends back in 2015. We think the posts are still relevant today.

In recent posts, we have discussed some historical trends that influence members’ perceptions on energy use including 1) “Live Better Electrically”, 2) Energy Conservation and 3) Energy Efficiency. We think the most recent trend or layer to consider is Renewables.

Starting about ten years ago, the topic of Renewable Energy became very popular. In some ways, it was similar to the Energy Conservation trend of the late 1970s in that the focus was as a solution to a national crisis. In this case, the crisis was “global warming” or “climate change” attributed to using fossil fuels (primarily coal) to generate electricity.

In North Carolina, there were two primary drivers: 1) a state mandate that required electric utilities to generate 10% of the electricity output using renewables by 2018 and 2) state tax credits that when combined with federal tax credits and corporate tax accounting benefits that could cover more than 80% of the cost of solar generation. As you might expect, that combination of mandated purchases and favorable economics has produced a large number of solar farms across North Carolina.

For Wake Electric, the combination produced an opportunity to sign long-term agreements to purchase solar renewable energy credits (RECs) associated with 65 million kWh annually from 23 large solar farms in eastern North Carolina. That is the equivalent of 10,000 typical residential rooftop solar systems and should be sufficient to meet the state renewables requirement.

For Wake Electric members directly, the renewables trend is harder to quantify. We think that lower solar panel prices and energy storage technology may make these systems more economically attractive in the future. However, some state and federal tax credits may soon expire which makes the economics worse. Also, some members think that environmental objectives associated with renewables are better achieved through conservation and/or energy efficiency.

Even with the rationale of increasing renewables to reduce the effects of “climate change” and the equivalence with energy conservation or energy efficiency, the renewables trend does not appear to significantly decrease members’ overall use of electricity from Wake Electric. It certainly introduces another layer into how members think about their electricity use.

So what’s next? A continuation of the current multi-layered approach? A new technology that pushes an older trend or layer back to the forefront? Something new? As we reflect on the 75 year history of Wake Electric and then look to the future, we assume that new trends will develop and new layers will be added to the already complicated and sometimes conflicting multi-layered approach that we see today.

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

 

April – We originally posted a four-part series on energy trends back in 2015. We think the posts are still relevant today.

Trends—Energy Conservation & Energy Efficiency

In last month’s post, we discussed the dramatic increases in electricity use in the 1960’s and into the 1970’s as Wake Electric members installed new electric appliances and residential air conditioning. We have labeled that trend “Live Better Electrically” after the General Electric advertising campaign. The result was that by 1978, Wake Electric members’ average electricity use had tripled to 900 kWh per month.  About the same time, however, the term “energy conservation” was in the news.

President Jimmy Carter – Report to the Nation on Energy

While the issue was specifically about oil and natural gas resources, overall energy conservation (including electricity) was seen as a national priority. It certainly defined the trend in perceptions of energy use in that “using less energy was better”.  For Wake Electric members, the result was a significant decline in the rate of increase of electricity use. Eight years later, by 1986, Wake Electric members’ average electricity use had continued to increase but only from 900 kWh to 1,000 kWh per month.

While the “energy conservation” trend is now seen as more of a personal or economic choice and less of a national priority, it certainly added a layer of complexity in how we think about using electricity.

While “energy conservation” is about doing less with less, “energy efficiency” is about doing the same or more with less. It’s the difference between 1) turning lights off and 2) replacing light bulbs with LEDs.

For nearly twenty years, the trend was all about energy efficiency. Between federal standards, state building codes and market pressures, many residential appliances and heat pumps/air conditioning units now used far less electricity for the same result. We would have expected to see energy use per member to decline during that period.

Surprisingly, Wake Electric members’ average electricity use continued to slowly increase during that period from about 1,000 kWh per month to about 1,200 kWh per month. We think there are a couple of reasons. First, is the potential “rebound effect” of energy efficiency improvements.

 Jevons Paradox

Second, we think that energy efficiency is just another layer built on earlier layers, including the “Live Better Electrically” layer. Members continue to add new uses of electricity such as more TVs, more PCs and many more mobile devices that need to be plugged in to recharge. The combined effect is a reduced rate of increase but still increasing amount of electricity use.

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

March – Trends:  Live Better Electrically

Last month, we discussed four major trends (electrification, conservation, energy efficiency, and renewables) that have shaped members’ thinking about using electricity over Wake Electric’s 75 year history.

This month, we’ll start at the beginning, with electrification. In 1940, the year that Wake Electric was incorporated, electricity was used primarily for lighting. Many members initially used less than 50 kWh per month. By the 1950s, however, many electric appliances were becoming popular. General Electric’s “Live Better Electrically” advertising campaign was an example.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ1_KjEQgo4

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=u5Lz1C53RwI

For Wake Electric members, the big jump in electricity use began in the 1960’s with the introduction of residential air conditioning, followed by electric heat pumps for heating and cooling. In 1960, the average energy used per residential member was 300 kWh per month. That amount increased to 500 kWh per month by 1968 and 700 kWh per month in 1973. By 1978, average residential electricity use had grown to 900 kWh per month. That was a 300% increase in just 18 years.

In some ways, the trend to “live better electrically” continues to be the baseline for residential energy use but the world was changing, as we’ll see in next month’s post.  Questions about energy trends? Suggestions for future topics? Please respond to MAC@wemc.com.

 

February – Energy Trends: A Multi-Layered Approach

In 2015, as we celebrated Wake Electric’s 75th anniversary, we put that history into perspective in a four-part series on Energy Trends.  The series highlighted some of the most popular energy trends from decades past.  Those posts are still relevant today:

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 to 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.

 

January – Electric Grid Reliability and Resiliency

In the past couple of posts, we have discussed how the electric grid was affected by recent hurricanes in Florida and the Caribbean. A number of members have asked specific questions about the reliability of Wake Electric’s distribution system and how we might respond to a major hurricane.

In an average year (with no major storms), a typical Wake Electric member is without electric service for two to three hours per year. For just the electric distribution system (excluding power supplier outages), the number is one to two hours per year. Of course, these are annual averages: Individual members could see considerably more or less.

Our last direct hit by a major hurricane was Hurricane Fran in 1996, more than 20 years ago. Wake Electric initially experienced a total system outage. After a few days, approximately 50% of members had their electric service restored. After a week, nearly 100% of members were back on. The following chart shows the number of members without electric service over that week.

Wake Electric’s distribution system consists of 3,250 miles of power lines (1,350 miles are underground and 1,900 miles are overhead). The overhead system includes more than 40,000 poles. We operate 19 substations and 73 separate circuits. Some circuits can be supplied from more than one substation. We think that the electric system is much more resilient than in 1996.

All that said, we can certainly imagine a scenario where members could be without electric service for a week or more. As we’ve seen recently in Puerto Rico, a long outage becomes much more than an inconvenience.

Questions or comments about grid reliability and resiliency? Let us know at mac@wemc.com

2017 – For all MAC posts in 2017, click here.

2016 – For all MAC posts in 2016, click here.

2015 – For all MAC posts in 2015, click here.

2014 – For all MAC posts in 2014, click here.