Choptank Electric Coop Case Study

Choptank Electric is a non-profit energy cooperative that serves the entire Eastern Shore of Maryland. The co-op is owned by its members and provides electricity to more than 52,000 customers. They purchase power from a larger investor-owned service. A few months ago, Choptank was notified by their power supplier that their wholesale peak usage rates will soon be increasing, which would drastically raise the rates for Choptank’s members.

The company created an energy-saving initiative called “Beat The Peak." This is how they explained the program to their members:

"Beat the Peak" is a voluntary program where members are encouraged to conserve or limit energy usage during peak times. "Peak" times are those when the Cooperative is purchasing wholesale power at the highest prices. By cutting back on the amount of wholesale power purchased during these peak, high-priced periods, the Cooperative can reduce its total wholesale power costs. Reductions in wholesale power costs are passed through directly to the members in our power cost adjustment.

When the co-op needed to send announcements to its members in the past, they included bill stuffers in the monthly paper statements. However, these announcements were typically one-offs about upcoming planned outages or line upgrades. For this particular program, Choptank needed a way to continuously remind their members to keep power usage low during peak times.

Choptank came very close to implementing an email notification system to send regular messages reminding people to keep their peak usage low. However, they quickly realized that very few of their members had mobile email access and, because many were in the farming community, they would not be near their computers to check emails daily. Bret Shortall, Manager of Information Technology for Choptank Electric, suggested they setup an SMS text messaging alert system instead, so people could be notified directly on their phones. Shortall searched for a solution on the web and EZ Texting. He chose the service for its ease-of-use and affordable, pay-as-you-go pricing.

Using EZ Texting’s Web Widget, members can signup directly online. In order to publicize the “Beat The Peak” program, Choptank currently uses the following methods:

  • Bill stuffers introducing the program and instructing members to visit their website to signup
  • Radio ads with a 1-800 number to call and signup over the phone
  • TV ads with the web address for viewers to go to their website and join

Beat The Peak launched in early May 2009 (two weeks ago as of publication), and so far 156 members have joined the SMS alerts list. Because the May rain showers have kept the temperatures mild, they have not yet sent a message, but plan to by Memorial Day weekend. They will send messages 4-6 days per week around 5pm, reminding members to curtail uses of appliances. The collective effort is expected to reduce Choptank’s overall peak usage, and therefore, their overall costs passed on to their members.