Tallahassee Reports has learned that after seven years the “Nights and Weekends” smart grid program has failed to reach the customer participation levels required to make the $40 million smart meter investment cost-effective for taxpayers.
Also, it appears city staff has failed to publicly update elected officials on this finding. A search of city commission meetings and workshops shows no update on the “Nights and Weekends” program since approximately 2014.
In addition, the fact that the smart meter thermostats – which were trumpeted as a major component of the program – are still not available, raises serious questions about the cost-effectiveness of the $40 million program.
The latest information obtained by TR from the City of Tallahassee shows that after seven years of promoting the “Nights and Weekends” program, 2,574 people are currently enrolled.
The city’s projection for cost-effectiveness was 25,000 subscribers.
This projection was clearly presented to the city commission on March 28, 2007:
Staff does not expect operational savings alone to exceed the capital investment within the first 15 years of deployment. However with good customer participation (25% or more) in load control and pricing programs, staff expects that operational savings coupled with future avoided capital costs (associated with building new power plants) will exceed total program costs.
City officials based their analysis on the participation of 25,000 households or roughly 25% of all residential customers in pricing and load control programs. Without this level of participation the analysis shows that the program will not be cost effective.
The “Nights and Weekends” program was introduced as a way to price electricity during peak times instead of the same price all day long. The thought was people would change their electricity usage behavior for lower rates and with enough participation the city would avoid building additional power plants and justify the cost of the $40 million investment in smart meters.
However, the data provided to Tallahassee Reports shows that since 2010, 6,892 have signed up for the program, while 4,318 have cancelled. As of May 2018, there are 2,574 accounts participating in the program.
The average time on the program for those who cancelled was calculated to be approximately 1.5 years.
The table below shows that the “Nights & Weekends” program has had more cancellations than new subscribers for 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The program peaked with 2,810 subscribers in 2015.