Henry Hall is already living one version of the energy future at his Southeast Portland apartment. He’s part of a demand-response program designed to see whether his utility can get him to lower his power use when demand is high.
“So, this here is my Nest thermostat. It’s a second-generation thermostat,” he said, leading us to his upstairs landing where the thermostat is located.
Hall is one of 20,000 Portland General Electric customers taking part in a smart thermostat experiment. He allows the power company to automatically turn his thermostat down when it's very cold outside and everyone else is turning up the heat.
That is called a "peak demand event" because the demand for energy is peaking.
In the summer, Hall allows PGE to turn his air conditioning down when it's very hot during a peak event.
“They’re really good about letting you adjust it yourself if you want to, if it's uncomfortable. But they also pre-adjust. So, if it’s gonna be a hot day and they’re expecting high air conditioning usage they will turn it down in advance to make the house colder," he said. "But it will warm up.”
A couple degrees up or down does not sound like much. But if PGE could get all 881,000 customers to take part, that would add up in a big way and help them move demand up or down to match the supply.