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Peco proposal seeks to slash power consumption

Peco Energy Co. yesterday proposed distributing six million free or discounted compact fluorescent lightbulbs - four for every residential customer - as part of an aggressive plan to cut energy consumption in four years.

Peco Energy Co. yesterday proposed distributing six million free or discounted compact fluorescent lightbulbs - four for every residential customer - as part of an aggressive plan to cut energy consumption in four years.

In a filing with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Philadelphia electric utility proposed spending $342 million to help customers weatherize their homes and businesses, to subsidize energy-efficient appliances, and to encourage customers to curtail consumption during the peak summer hours, when power is in short supply.

The most energy-conscious residential customers could opt into discounted programs previously available only to larger customers. One such program would provide incentives to those who give Peco permission to control remotely big appliances, such as air conditioners, to curtail use during peak hours.

By 2011, Peco hopes to implement time-of-day rates that would allow residential customers to save money by shifting consumption to off-peak hours.

Peco's energy-efficiency and conservation proposal, along with those from six other big Pennsylvania power companies, was filed yesterday to comply with Act 129, a law Gov. Rendell signed in October that requires electrical utilities to reduce consumption 1 percent by 2011 and 3 percent by 2013.

The law also requires utilities to cut peak demand 4.5 percent during the hottest hours in the summer, when air-conditioning use pushes the limits of the grid.

Yesterday, Peco called the law's requirements "among the most aggressive in the country" and asked the PUC to approve the plan quickly. Peco asked the commission to expedite the lightbulb program, so it could tie in with federal initiatives to encourage low-wattage lighting.

Peco's proposal, while ambitious, comes at a cost. Pennsylvania utilities can raise rates up to 2 percent to recover the costs of the conservation programs. The increase translates into $3 more per month for a Peco customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours.

But Peco said customers who took advantage of even a few options - discounted programmable thermostats or energy-efficient lighting - could recover their investments quickly and drive down their monthly bills.

"It's really not about changing your lifestyle," said Cathy Engel, a Peco spokeswoman. "It's about using energy smarter."

PPL Electric Utilities Corp., the Allentown utility that serves much of eastern and central Pennsylvania, yesterday filed a similar plan to Peco's, proposing to spend $246 million over four years on conservation.

The filings by the Pennsylvania utilites come amid a cascade of events as federal and state agencies ramp up efforts to encourage conservation to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and dependence on imported fuel.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities yesterday approved $225 million in energy-efficiency investments for three utilities, including $17.1 million by South Jersey Gas Co. and $190 million by Public Service Electric & Gas Co. The New Jersey proposals would create 1,000 jobs in the next 18 months, according to the BPU.

PSE&G has proposed spending $29 million on residential improvements, $20 million on small businesses, $25 million for government facilities, and $68 million to improve efficiency at hospitals. The typical residential electric customer will pay $2.60 more per year for the programs, according to the New Jersey utility.

Peco is required to cut annual consumption 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours by 2013, the equivalent of knocking 120,000 households off the grid. Peco has 1.6 million customers.

Across the state, a 4.5 percent reduction in peak demand translates into the avoided cost of building 1,193 megawatts of capacity, the equivalent of one nuclear reactor.

Peco's Proposals

Amounts the utility plans to spend to help customers reduce their energy use:

$20 million for compact-fluorescent-light giveaways and rebates.

$28 million for low-income energy-efficiency programs.

$35 million for rebates on energy-efficient products.

$10 million in appliance-pickup programs.

$5 million for rebates on home solar projects.

$4 million for home energy audits.

$41 million on energy-management programs.

$46 million to cut peak-hour energy use.

$62 million for commercial/industrial equipment upgrades.

$46 million for government and public facility improvements.