CUB program to reward those cutting electric use

Posted June 2, 2010 at 5:39 p.m.

By Julie Wernau | Ten 100-watt incandescent light bulbs, burning four hours a day,
replaced by ten 100-watt compact fluorescent light bulbs, burning four
hours a day: How much can you save over a year?

No need to do the
math. An online tool introduced Wednesday by the Citizens Utility Board
does it for you; the answer is $241. CUB Energy Saver automatically
links to your Commonwealth Edison bill to track savings, rewards your
energy savvy with points redeemable for gift certificates and lets you
compete against your neighborhood, friends — heck, even enemies.

The free program, available at to ComEd customers, is the first online program in the nation to reward users for reducing their energy usage and combines elements of similar programs that are being tested but have yet to be introduced on a large scale by ComEd and other utilities. According to CUB, customers in its 3,000-person pilot program saved $200 annually and earned points towards gift certificates averaging the equivalent of $130 per year.

Utilities have been experimenting with everything from iPhone-like apps to neighborhood competitions to help consumers get a better handle on their electricity consumption. But getting people to pay attention to the information has been a challenge.

“It’s great to tell someone to wash in cold water. But by giving them a reward for doing that, you encourage them to continue that behavior over the long term,” said Matt Tucker, president of RecycleBank, a New York-based rewards program that teamed with CUB on the project along with Efficiency 2.0, an energy-efficiency program administrator to the utility industry also based in New York.

To sign up, customers enter their street address and ComEd account information. The program uses algorithms to personalize each person’s account using data such as property records, energy-usage history, U.S. Census data, weather analysis and neighborhood information. The result, says Adam Sandler, vice president of online marketing at Efficiency 2.0, is a personalized user profile that provides an educated guess on where the most energy is being used and offers savings tips. Customers can also enter information to further customize the tool.

“This isn’t your typical program with generic advice,” said David Kolata, executive director of CUB. “Obviously, the more you put in, the more accurate it becomes.”

For now, the point-earning component of the program is available only to the first 10,000 people who sign up. Points are redeemable for gift certificates that can used at local businesses and national retailers. Customers earn two points per kilowatt hour saved and are given 100 free points upon sign up. For instance, in one deal, 50 points gets a customer $5 off a purchase of $25 or more at Leona’s Restaurants. In another, 100 points can be redeemed for one child admission to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Customers can also choose not to share their information with their neighbors, in which case, said Sandler, their data will be aggregated anonymously so it is still possible to compare the energy savings of Uptown, for instance, to that of Logan Square.

Privacy settings can be adjusted to allow neighbors to pinpoint a home and it’s energy profile on an interactive map of the neighborhood.

CUB’s project comes as utilities have been under increased political pressure to find ways to curb energy use.

The state’s public electric utilities are forecasting renewed demand for electricity this summer as the economy improves. ComEd is predicting its peak summer load will be the highest since 2006.

The company rolled out a smart meter program this week that provides more than 100,000 households and businesses with information about their energy usage over the Internet. The customers have had meters installed in their homes that provide up-to-the-minute data on power usage.

CUB’s program estimates energy savings and reports back with real data on a monthly basis — an expansion on a concept introduced in a recent ComEd pilot conducted on 50,000 customers in which they were compared to their neighbors and emailed results monthly, along with tips. ComEd reported that the program spurred a two percent reduction in energy usage.



  1. LKJ June 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    The irony is that the rewards themselves will expend the very energy allegedly saved by the rewards-chasers.

  2. Ella June 2, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Um, so what is ComEd getting out of this? I find it hard to believe that they want to save me money, or give me “rewards”. Also, with how many outtages I have during the spring and summer months, they’ll be rationing my electricity anyway. Thanks for the crappy equipment ComEd. Oh, and what does washing in cold water have to do with electricity?

  3. Billy June 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    As ComEd is forced to compete with other companies offering different ways of getting energy, it benefits ComEd to offer these benefits. In any event, it shows good will to the community.
    Washing in cold water has to do a lot with your electric consumption if you have a dishwasher with an electric water heater, a clothes washer that heats water, or an electric water heater for the house.

  4. Susan in Buffalo Grove - LiLSuzQ32 June 2, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    This would be great … IF my neighbors and I had access to our electric meters – - which are inside a LOCKED ROOM in our condo building.

  5. Patterson June 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Get ready for more rate increases because they won’t be making enough money with everyone “saving”.
    Nothing in those rewards interests me anyway. Still gotta spend a fortune getting to those places so I can spend another fortune so I can save $5. Just deduct the “savings” from my bill please.

  6. Brian Urbaszewski June 2, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Ten 100-watt incandescent light bulbs, burning four hours a day, replaced by ten 100-watt compact fluorescent light bulbs, burning four hours a day: How much can you save over a year?
    Umm – how about nothing. Someone needs to check the math.
    or someone should wake up the editor.
    It needs to say “100 watt EQUIVALENT compact fluorescent light bulbs (that typically use 23 watts)”. Otherwise, you’re using the same amount of electricity.

  7. Rossie Whittle June 17, 2010 at 11:58 a.m.

    Most insurance companies’ websites are secure. It’s the local or small insurance co that dont have secure websites and bind coverage for small periods of time. As far as online quotes are concerned if you dont provide a VIN # at the time of quoting, the quote is pretty much a “ball park” figure. Without the VIN, the quote will rate the vehicle as far as statistics are concerned and you as the principal operator. Of course there are MANY factors that come into play when rating is taken into consideration on an auto policy.