In the past few months the most popular question I’ve heard from friends and
customers alike is regarding third party electricity suppliers. “Who are these
people showing up at my door?” “Why are they offering lower prices?” “Is it
worth it to switch to them?” These are all very important questions to consider
especially after electricity prices have risen so much.
The first thing I like to tell people is to be careful. Many customers have
expressed that some third party electricity suppliers will claim they are
National Grid. It’s important to be aware who you are opening your door for and
is always reasonable to ask for identification. You can even call Customer
Service to check (1-800-322-3223).
All National Grid employees carry National Grid badges with them. Another story
I’ve heard that whether true or not is important to be aware of is that there
is one supplier that will ask to see your electric bills and will take the
customer’s account number and attempt to switch their service without
But beyond these infrequent stories, third party electricity suppliers are
something to consider in reducing electricity costs. Customers are free to
switch to a third party supplier at any time, but once signed up with a third
party supplier you may be charged a fee by the third party electricity supplier
to switch back to National Grid if you have signed a contract.
The second thing I like to tell people is do your math. For me it simply
doesn’t make sense to switch to a third party supplier because my lease expires
in May and from my calculations it wouldn’t save me any money. Right now the
third party supplier may be offering electricity prices a few since cheaper
than National Grid, but often times they lock you into that price for two years
with a fee if the contract is broken. So by signing up with this third party
supplier you are assuming electricity prices aren’t going to change for the
next two years or that the net change in price is going to be 0. Third party
suppliers are sometimes able to offer electricity at a lower price because they
are not subject to the same regulations as National Grid and may engage in more
dynamic (and possibly risky) purchasing strategies. Whereas, National Grid buys
100% of the electricity its customers will need for a six month period in
advance, which means the price of electricity changes twice every year: in
November and May. So even though the price is around $0.16 per kilowatt hour
now the price will change again in May and historically it has gone down
compared to winter prices.
Also, customers who switch to a power supplier still remain National Grid
delivery customers and still receive all the benefits of being a customer, such
as energy efficiency programs.
So in determining if switching to a third party electricity supplier customers
must consider price and terms of any agreement. This is tricky because no one
knows how electricity prices will behave in the future, so it is important that
the decision is your own.
Important note: Customers who are part of the Smart Energy Solution Program are
not eligible for the new rates-the Smart Rewards Pricing Program- if they
switch to a third party electricity supplier.
In the past few months the most popular question I’ve heard from friends and
This blog post can also be seen at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette’s blog section
Starting November 1, National Grid increased their electricity supply rates, which means a typical customer might see a 37% increase on their monthly bill. This is a serious cause for concern for many customers, especially those with electric heat. This increase applies to the “supply” portion of your bill and is due to increasingly higher demands for natural gas for home heating and for the region’s electricity generators, which is in turn stressing the natural gas pipelines supplying the area. During peak demand times, generators are forced to buy natural gas at high spot market prices and that has caused the supply portion of your bill to skyrocket.
So, what can we do to save electricity and money this winter?
1. Enroll in the Smart Energy Solutions Program
Worcester is the home to National Grid’s Smart Energy Solutions Program that aims to give customers better visibility and knowledge of how much electricity they’re using in their homes through access to electricity usage information, home technologies such as digital picture frames, smart thermostats and smart plugs at no cost to the customer, and new supply rates that offer cost savings nights and weekends. To see if you’re in the program check your electricity meter for a blue stripe. And if you are, go online to nationalgrid.com/smartenergy or visit the Sustainability Hub at 912 Main St. in Worcester.
2. Get a free ride to visit the Worcester Sustainability Hub
Come visit National Grid’s Sustainability Hub at 912 Main St for a tour of our new Smart Energy Solutions program! Learn about energy efficient appliances, smart devices, in-home devices that are available at no cost to you, and how you can enroll in the Smart Energy Solutions Program and its new, lower electric rates.
To get to the Sustainability Hub, sign up for Uber and get a free round-trip ride using code SUSHUB!
Uber is an iPhone/Android/Blackberry app that allows you to request a ride at the tap of a button and summons a professional driver to your side within minutes. Track your driver’s arrival on a map and receive a notification when they arrive. There’s no need to worry about handling cash – your fare is automatically billed to your credit card on file.
Uber not only looks to connect you with your city reliably and efficiently, but we’ve always been about reducing our environmental impact, too. From paperless receipts, to increasing the number of eco-friendly vehicle options, to encouraging people to leave their cars at home, Uber has a sustainable future in mind.
3. Sign up for a free home energy audits
MassSave offers home energy audits free of charge to you. A trained professional performs an assessment of your home and gives recommendations on how your energy efficiency can be improved. They will replace old light bulbs, install programmable thermostats, and give faucet aerators as well as use a thermal imaging gun to check for areas where heat is escaping from your home and insulation or weathering can be improved. To make an appointment visit their website at http://www.masssave.com/residential/home-energy-assessments or give them a call at 866-527-7283.
4. Replace old appliances
Old appliances, especially refrigerators and freezers, can suck large amounts of electricity as they begin to die, MassSave offers rebates for EnergySTAR appliances, as well as a $50 rebate to pick up any old refrigerators or freezers. There is also a $100 rebate for qualifying smart thermostats that allow you to control your thermostat from your smart phone. Visit www.masssave.com for more information.
5. Apply for income-eligible programs
National Grid in conjunction with MassSave offer rates for income eligible customers called the R2 rate. They also offer fuel assistance programs, energy efficiency services and payment plans for any customers that qualify. To see if you qualify call National Grid’s customer service line 1-800-322-3223 or MassSave at 866-527-7283. Worcester Community Action Council also offers fuel assistance and weatherization programs to qualifying customers. To find out more information call 508.754.7281 or visit http://www.wcac.net/fe_fuelassistance.html.
6. Explore Competitive Suppliers
The electric “supply cost” from National Grid does not include any markup and will remain at this price for 6 months. The supply cost for residential customers changes twice a year, November 1st and May 1st. There is an option for customers to get their electricity supply from a competitive supplier, but it is important for you to carefully examine these alternative suppliers and do your homework to compare prices available in the market and be sure to fully understand the terms and conditions of any supply contract that you sign.
7. Find ways to conserve energy in your home
There are many small ways you can conserve energy in your home:
- Turn your thermostat down at night or when you’re not home
- Throw on a sweater and keep your thermostat a few degree lower when you are home
- Add a draft stopper below doors
- Use window film to insulate drafty windows (kits can be purchased on Amazon for less than $15)
- Replace light bulbs in frequently used areas with LEDs, they last more than 20 years and save you money
- Buy a hot water bottle to put under your comforter at night; not only does it save money by allowing you to keep your house cooler at night, but it makes for a cozy bed (can be purchased on Amazon for less than $10)
- Buy a drying rack or install a clothes line in your bathroom or laundry room, dryers are a huge electricity user (drying racks around $25 on Amazon)
- Unplug appliances when not in use
- Turn your fan on winter mode; it seems counter-intuitive, but hot air rises so the fan will push warm air towards the ground. There is usually a switch on the fan that allows you to switch the direction of rotation.
Even though electricity prices are going up there are plenty of programs to take advantage of to stay warm this winter and put more money in your pocket for the holidays.
A well-known Hopi American Indian proverb says: “The one who tells the stories rules the world.” Story telling is a big part of Native American culture and is also a form of show-and-tell. As engineers, most of us have had the opportunity to engage in show and tell at various times during our careers, and for a select few, we may even do it every day.
Show-and-tell also can be used to enhance the understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in youngsters. As an IEEE member, I am encouraging you to get involved and promote STEM careers via show-and-tell activities. We must learn to better market our profession, identify who we are, what we do, why we do it, and why we’d also like more folks to join us.
Mission critical is the need to replace retiring engineers in power production fields and fill the pipeline with new engineers who must do the many jobs that those retirees perform every day. Which brings me to the SMART Competition. It is a STEM education program for high school students aimed at helping them figure out how to build a sustainable future.
Through a series of unplanned events, I have had the opportunity to work very closely with high school students over the last three years. I’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t in this journey of educating our future decision-makers and leaders. One of my greatest challenges has been to identify what motivates teens when they think that everything that adults do is “boring.” My biggest success has been through the use of activities and resources that stress the four Rs: real, relevant, relational, and rousing.
Now, before my “wanna-be” story tellers and STEM marketing peers with the elongated elevator speeches turn and run in the other direction, I’ll share how the SMART Competition does most of this for you:
Real–the SMART Competition challenges high school students to develop solutions to a real-world campus redesign project.
Relevant–the solution includes elements of localized power generation, smart grid, power distribution and delivery, electric vehicles, and architecture.
Relational–not to be overlooked are the environment, community, livability, and sustainable technologies that are so important to our youth.
Rousing–the ultimate goal of the competition is to create interest in university studies and STEM-related careers by getting the student excited in a way that he or she acts on the education and learning experience.
The contest promotes intellectual investigation, academic achievement, career preparation, teamwork, and other 21st-century skills essential for in-demand occupations within high-growth industry sectors. The computer design and simulation skills will provide students with the capability to work for engineering and design firms while in school or immediately following graduation. How c-o-o-l is that?
Students will also gain and/or demonstrate a working knowledge of project management, smart grid, energy systems, transportation planning, building economics, LEED requirements, carbon footprint, and sustainable design.
Other attributes of the contest include the use of commercial software design tools and a global technical support infrastructure. Bentley Systems, a competition sponsor, has donated all CAD, GIS and AECOsim series energy analysis software tools along with their Microstation platform that will be used by students to conduct design and analysis requirements.
The competition is open to all high school students who attend public, private, parochial, charter, and home-based schools. Students from non-school based or informal education programs are also welcome. There is no restriction on the student’s gender, race, socio-economic status, or academic performance level.
As an engineering professional, your participation is needed. If you have a story in you, your help is needed to engage our nation’s high school students for this year’s SMART Competition. Your involvement will enhance the breadth and impact of the program on student participants. Telling your story, and assisting high school students in telling their story, will promote STEM professionals as leaders, decision makers, and nation builders. Hearing a parent, teacher, or student say: “Thank you so much! I never knew what engineers or STEM professionals did until now,” is more important than ruling the world. It’s priceless.
There are many opportunities for volunteers to become involved in organizing and supporting the SMART Competition. Registration opens on 8 October.
To learn the specific rules and goals of the contest visit: http://www.smartcompetition.org/
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the bloggers and do not represent official positions of The Institute or IEEE.
Earlier this month we learned the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities gave National Grid’s Smart Grid pilot in Worcester the green light to move ahead. I couldn’t be more pleased as this approval is a major step forward for the collective Worcester community and National Grid to define the energy landscape for generations to come.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, “Smart Grid” adds a layer of two-way digital technology to our power system. This makes it possible for National Grid to give you the information, price incentives and automation to reduce or defer your electrical use, increase clean energy sources, and improve service by detecting outages and problems precisely where they occur.
The Worcester Smart Grid pilot program will support the aspirations of the participants from the Summit who are looking forward to the benefits of taking greater control of their energy usage in a way never before possible. New meters will be provided to 15,000 National Grid customers within the pilot area. This is a major first step toward the modernization of a more secure, more robust and dependable power grid for the city, the Commonwealth and beyond.
The Smart Grid pilot will provide each participating customer:
➢ A visual display of their current overall energy consumption and the times of day they consume the most energy;
➢ Visibility to what energy costs at various times of the day or night;
➢ Tips, suggestions and programs designed to save energy and/or reduce costs;
➢ Automatic reporting of power outages leading to quicker response times.
In a nutshell, the Worcester Smart grid pilot will give customers information about their individual energy consumption and the ability to make choices to suit their lifestyles. Smart Grid is all about greater consumer choice, control, and convenience.
For those of us at the utility, this approval means we now authorized to move into full implementation mode for the Smart Grid pilot program. We will finalize contracts with vendors, continue to learn about your priorities, develop customer communication materials, and complete the final community rollout. This work will take the better part of the next year. Customers and the entire Worcester community will receive updates on our progress in the coming weeks and months.
For me personally, one of the most exciting aspects within the pilot is the opportunity to connect with other green and renewable initiatives across Worcester including solar and wind renewable energy projects and explorations of efficient building science and technology. The possibilities are endless and the enthusiasm that exists across Worcester will keep us all on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the area of sustainability across the Commonwealth.
All of us at National Grid are energized and eager to work with all of you to continue building Worcester’s smart energy future. Stay tuned – much more to come.
For periodic updates please follow us here on Green2Growth.com, on twitter @Green2Growth and on Facebook
Among the attendees of the Green Today, Growth Tomorrow Summit were commissioners and staffers from the Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the regulatory agency that makes the rules for National Grid and the other investor-owned utilities in the state. They heard and learned from the community about its priorities and attitudes towards sustainability. The experience provided a human context and backdrop for the formal proceedings surrounding the pilot.
The DPU’s press release announcing their approval of the National Grid pilot also reflects the impact the event had on the utility and how the pilot will help enable the region’s broader energy goals.
From the press release:
“In combination with the aggressive energy efficiency, distributed generation, and renewable resource initiatives enacted in the Commonwealth, a successful deployment of smart grid technologies will greatly assist the Commonwealth in meeting its energy goals, and enable the electric distribution companies to improve their distribution networks to meet the evolving needs of customers and increasing requirements to address climate change.
To read the entire release: http://www.mass.gov/eea/pr-2012/120803-pr-dpu-approves-smart-grid-pilot.html
From the Green2Growth summit, National Grid understood its customers wanted to use a “listen, test and learn” approach to optimize their involvement. Further, customers wanted National Grid to be more open to two-way communication to better understand what motivates residents and determine what else is needed to help the community achieve its goals.
National Grid heard that everyone wanted to participate — from low- to high-income residential customers to small-business customers. The utility also heard it needed to create a Sustainability Hub where people could come and try on smart grid concepts and technology, learn about energy and possibly get training or jobs. The utility heard people were in support of a green declaration of independence. An added bonus: the energy in the room was extraordinary.
The customer voices heard at the Green2Growth Summit helped National Grid develop a highly customer-centric approach to the smart grid. One key lesson learned is this process needs to start long before the pilot is launched. Engaging customers and stakeholders prior to the launch has proven to be critical in generating support, paving the way to a successful rollout.
Here is also an article from Worcester Telegram & Gazette about the pilot
WPI Students Jon Gaffen, John Fitzpatrick, and Andrew Bennett
One of the prototype projects that came out of the brainstorming at the Summit was an idea the participants called a “Viral Video Challenge.” College students would mentor middle-school students and help them produce videos to enter into a contest. The target audiences would include university professors, college students, junior high students, and ultimately, parents, siblings, and friends to vote for their videos, who would pass along the sustainability message creating a viral outreach effect.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute professors Robert Krueger and John Orr (a member of the original steering committee) made the introduction to a team of engineering students studying sustainability at WPI. Here are their impressions of the experience:
“Our Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) sponsored by Green2Growth consists of planning a program for local middle schools in order to promote sustainable living in Worcester. The Viral Video Challenge involves three steps;
- Educating local middle school students on sustainability.
- Helping the students produce videos that display what they learned and that are enjoyable to watch.
- Using various social media to maximize exposure of these videos and potentially make them go viral.
“By working on this project, I have learned about how eager Worcester’s community is to help the environment. Nearly every person I have talked to about this project has shown their support and thanked me for my work. As part of our project, we interviewed the headmaster of the Bancroft School, the principal of Holy Name, a local marketing consultant, a professor of education at Worcester State, and three employees of National Grid. They were elated to hear that our team was taking steps to make Worcester a more sustainable city. All of these individuals are well aware of the grim impacts that the emission of greenhouse gases have on the environment and they are happy to assist in making the world a more sustainable place.
“On a practical basis we found the most challenging aspect was finding a school and teacher who would work with us on prototyping the concept in their classroom. Although our team will not be implementing the project this term, we are working closely with Green2Growth in order to provide a future team with the tools they’ll need to succeed. “
Lesson number one: find a well-connected champion from the educational community to open the necessary doors or find another venue to host the project.
“To help us develop our curriculum, we visited National Grid’s Worcester office to discuss sustainable energy and smart grid technology. We went into ask just a few questions on Worcester’s energy consumption and CO2 output, only to learn so much more. Our experience at National Grid was great and it really taught us things that we didn’t know about smart grid technology.
“They also provided us with a packet of information that gave us many facts to put into the viral videos that will be produced. We look forward for working with them in the future.”
Lesson number two: it takes two-way conversations to even begin to learn what you don’t know.
“The marketing plan is an essential element for the project’s success. In order to fully understand the key concepts that make an idea successful in social media our group contacted Shari Worthington, a local marketing consultant. Shari explained to us that in order to grab the attention of the local population we would have to focus our ideas.
“Something that is important to one group of people might not necessarily be as important to another. This train of thought led us to reevaluating our initial approach. We looked at social networks beyond YouTube to see if we could generate interest with varied groups. We also could use traditional channels like flyers, local press, and advertising on Worcester Public School sites to generate attention for the videos.”
Lesson number three: varied traditional vehicles can drive traffic to social media properties.
If you think you might like to play a role in taking this project to the next step, please sign up using the Get Involved form.
What did I think of the Community Summit? Just one man’s biased opinion, but I thought it was most productive. But then I knew it would be. It was topical, had great keynote speakers, was organized in a very thoughtful way through the Appreciative Inquiry process, and most importantly, the registrant list was filled with people who I knew cared deeply about Worcester. What I did not anticipate was the quality and depth of the resulting pilot plans put together by the participants. Over 10 viable pilot projects, many with a level of detail typical of several days worth of concerted effort, were all done in a mere hours.
I think what I found most impressive was how everyone seemed to bring their best selves to the process. People were incredibly respectful, title and rank were dropped, and they really did listen to each other. It gave me hope, it did. We have an awful lot to do as a community to make our lives and our world more sustainable both for us and those that follow, but I came away from the Summit genuinely believing that we just might be able to pull it off.
The group I chose to join was tasked with writing a Green Declaration of Independence; essentially a mission statement with guiding principals that would form the foundation and rationale for all the work to follow. The goal was to write a Declaration that was bold, easy to understand, and would not immediately turn off half the people who read it. And our group covered a considerable range of political and cultural views. But I think it was because of those differences and our collective refusal to put together something weak that made our first draft good. It’s not great yet, but the essence of what is needed is in there.
The problem, of course, is that the Summit was the easy part (though I might have said otherwise during the weeks leading up to the event). Implementing more than 10 pilot projects is no small trick. Getting a steering council organized and then finding the people who will lead each pilot project to succeed will be the first marker in how the Summit will ultimately be judged. Each pilot group will need to truly take ownership of their project. It will be a big ask of the people who get involved. But I saw the enthusiasm and the willingness of people at the Summit. I believe more people than not want this to happen. And progress is already being made with several announcements soon to come on the website.
It’s rare that we get the opportunity to make a real impact, but the work that comes out of this Summit has the potential to positively change this community, region and even beyond in a dramatic way – if we get this right. So let’s get it right. Take a look at the video from the Summit. Get inspired, now is your chance. We are going to need your help. Get Involved
In the early 20th century, the introduction of gas stations caused a widespread public outcry over worries and concerns about fires and loss of land. Today those same businesses found throughout our community are an accepted and safe part of our lives. The Institute for Energy and Sustainability (IES) finds we are poised to begin a new chapter for the transportation industry in Massachusetts.
IES recently learned it was the recipient of a Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Grant (DOER) to install Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations. IES had applied for ten stations to be installed throughout the city, on the campuses of Clark University and WPI, and at the Rt. 2 Visitors Center in Lancaster. EV adoption has been stalled by the lack of charging stations and unfamiliarity with the technology so this is an excellent chance to support and grow the EV market in Central MA.
The DOER charging stations coming to Central MA were part of a settlement for power plant pollution violations in Ohio that State Attorney General Martha Coakley won in a lawsuit. Additional units were donated by Coulomb Technologies. The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported on a training course in Stow for first responders about conditions they need to be aware of when responding to an accident involving an EV. EVs are becoming part of the transportation ecosystem.
To learn more about the challenges, opportunities and successes of EV technology, IES hosted a tour of Control Mod Industries, in Connecticut where they manufacture ceiling mounted, retractable EV charging stations. Our group saw how the stations are made and learned about the residential and commercial benefits of the ceiling mount stations. We charged Control Mod’s demonstration Chevy Volt and experienced the Volt’s electronic dashboard efficiency tools.
EVs represent a chance to increase innovation and production at American manufacturing car plants. The Chevy Volt was named “Car of the Year” by Motor Trend Magazine. Ford recognized the market demand of electric vehicles and is beginning manufacture of a 2011 EV Ford Focus. The vehicles provide an opportunity to reduce our dependence on foreign fuel reserves and increase demand for domestic production and installation of renewable energy. These cars alleviate concerns of carbon dioxide pollution and vehicle noise (they are near silent!)??
With investments like these, EV charging stations will gain in popularity. Worries about vehicle range, safety, access, and necessity will be resolved by demonstrating their safety and environmental and economic benefits through phased deployment of the technology. We have a tremendous opportunity thanks to the DOER EV charging station grant. In the near future, you or someone you know, will give EVs a test drive, buy one, or discover an interesting perspective. We invite you to share it with IES and our online community, so that we can learn and grow from each other and make choices that benefit the planet, the people and the economic engines that drive us all.
Welcome to the Green Today, Growth Tomorrow online conversation. I’m Cheri Warren, I’m the VP of Asset Management at National Grid which means that I am responsible for making sure the electricity infrastructure that serves you be the best it can be. I am thrilled to be posting the first blog on green2growth.com. We hope this site will serve as an interactive resource for great ideas about what green steps we can take today that will create significant economic growth tomorrow; both here in Worcester and across the Commonwealth.
Collaborating with the City of Worcester, local businesses, nonprofits, government and regulatory officials, and all of you, we are going to co-design Worcester’s transformation. Our first step is to help the City become an innovative energy leader and a repeatable model for how we can transform the Commonwealth.
We’ve chosen the Appreciative Inquiry technique as the foundation for our upcoming community summit. The first time I met Dr. David Cooperrider and heard about the exciting goals he has been able to help others achieve, I was instantly intrigued, curious and wanting to know more. His method for conducting strategic planning with whole communities and building on their strengths seemed like a natural fit for us as we determine how smart energy practices and technologies can benefit our customers. We want to better understand what is most important to local residents and businesses and then see how we can meet and exceed their expectations.
David tells many stories and encourages everyone to tell theirs. One example that really grabbed my attention was about two bowling teams. They held a competition and used video feedback to help them improve their performance. Team A used traditional techniques for improvement. They analyzed the videos and found all the places where they hadn’t done a good job and worked to improve those. Lo and behold – they improved 30% by the end of the season. Team B used an appreciative technique. They reviewed the videos and identified everything they did really well and then tried to amplify those techniques. They improved by 300%! That really resonated with me. If we use the A in AI then we can build on the many strengths that already exist in Worcester and Massachusetts. You’ll learn about more of those strengths here on this blog in the weeks leading up to the Summit. Please let us know about the green champions in your neighborhood.
David tells stories about the unique ideas that come from having everyone in a room together planning the future. Participants share their own stories and design prototypes to approach modern challenges in novel ways, shorten cycles for implementation, and improve communications. My personal reaction to participating in one of these AI summits is that it is possible for people to come together and create the world in which I want to live and pass along to our children.