County reaps financial power of conservation

Energy-savings program generated $38,000 in 2012

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Chester County received $38,000 in 2012 from an energy-savings program, a number expected to increase to $62,000 in 2013.

Imagine turning off your electricity for a few hours, getting paid to use a generator, and getting a stipend on top of that. In essence, Chester County residents experienced just such a scenario through an energy-savings program that reaped a financial gain of nearly $38,000 in 2012, a number expected to rise in 2013, county officials said.

The county participated in a “Capacity Market Demand Response Program” run by PJM, a regional electricity transmission company. Under the terms of the program, participants agree to curtail electric use during times of high demand, helping to alleviate pressure to the grid, said Steve Fromnick, the county’s director of Facilites and Parks.

Fromnick said the program involved three county buildings: the Pocopson Home, which already had a full backup generator; the Chester County Library, and the Henrietta Hankin Library, both of which had emergency-lighting generators in place. He said PJM typically gives the county about two hours’ notice of a shutdown, which may last from two to six hours.

The shutdowns are infrequent, Fromnick said, adding that PJM reimburses the county for the cost of running the generators. One happened in 2011, and two occurred this past summer during the height of the heat waves. Fromnick said the libraries had to be closed for a couple of hours but were able to reopen later in the day.

As electricity rates rise, the monetary benefits of the program will increase as well, Fromnick said. The 2013 payout is expected to be about $62,000, he said. Despite the financial incentive, extending the program to other buildings would not be practical, given the larger number of people that might need to be displaced, he said.

“For relatively minor inconvenience, it’s a nice payout,” Fromnick said.

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