A contest where everyone wins

Published Tuesday, January 20, 2015 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

Millions of Canadians buy lottery tickets every week.  Most don’t win.

But imagine a contest where everyone who takes part wins, in one form or other.  That’s the premise behind “Beat the Peak”, launched by NB Power this week.  Its aim is to keep a lid on the cost of power generation, and to help NBers save on their energy bills every month.  The contest offers some nice cash and community prizes too.

The problem with peaks

In winter, New Brunswick’s power grid experiences two big peaks every day.  One occurs from 6-9 AM, when we turn up our heat, take our showers and make our breakfast.  The other occurs from 4-8 PM, when we return home, turn up our heat, make supper and do dishes.  

The peaks are significant.  Last Wednesday was one of the coldest days so far this winter, and the difference between the midnight low and the morning peak was 675 megawatts – more than the output of Point Lepreau, one of our biggest power plants.

Providing the power to meet those peaks is very costly: it usually means spending billions building power plants that end up running only a few days a year.  And any added cost to NB Power becomes an added cost to its ratepayers.

Peaks are expensive in terms of emissions too, because the power plants used to meet them – ‘peakers’ in utility jargon – are typically fossil fuel plants with the greatest emissions per kilowatt hour generated.  NB Power’s main peaker is Coleson Cove, which runs on oil.

The contest

Beat the Peak has two parts.  First, there’s a challenge for individuals, with three daily prizes of $50 and three weekly prizes of $500.  To enter, all you have to do is register at www.beatthepeak.ca and share what you are doing to reduce your peak power consumption.

Second, there’s a community challenge that has the Moncton and Fredericton regions competing to see who can get the most citizens engaged and involved.  The winner gets $10,000 toward energy efficiency upgrades for their YMCA.  Mayors LeBlanc and Woodside have already each indicated they expect to win...

Strategies 

Clearly, reducing winter peaks is in everyone’s interest.  So is saving money.  What can the average homeowner do?  

  • Heating: install programmable thermostats.  Save money by setting them to automatically turn your heat down when you’re away or asleep, and by setting them lower and wearing a sweater.  Reduce your peak by setting them to turn on and off before the morning and afternoon peak times.  Experiment a bit to determine what works best in your home, but most homes will stay warm for at least an hour after the heat has been turned off.  As well, save money by caulking and weatherstripping to seal air leaks – the best single heat-saving investment you can make.  
  • Showering: save money by installing a low flow shower head and by taking fewer, shorter showers.  Reduce your peak by showering before bed instead of in the morning.
  • Cooking: save money and reduce your peak by using the microwave instead of the stove whenever possible.  Reduce your peak by washing dishes outside peak times.
  • Laundry: save money by investing in an efficient, front load washer and by using a clothesline or drying rack instead of a dryer.  Reduce your peak by doing laundry outside peak hours.
  • Lights: save money and reduce your peak by installing LED light bulbs, the latest in ultra-efficient lighting – more costly to buy but much cheaper in the long run 

With NB Power’s Beat the Peak challenge, everyone wins – either through prizes or through energy savings.  So let’s get started – contest details and more great energy-saving tips can be found at www.beatthepeak.ca.