Puget Sound Energy’s ‘flex event’ affected 260,000 customers amid cold spell

Jan 12, 2024, 3:46 PM | Updated: 8:29 pm

pse flex smart...

Puget Sound Energy repairing some power lines (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) alerted 260,000 customers of a “flex event” for Friday that occurred between 4 and 8 p.m. due to energy demands related to the cold weather.

Customers received an email or a pre-recorded phone message alerting them to the flex event, but the message failed to explain what a flex event is.

PSE Product Development Manager Tom Smith told KIRO Newsradio that customers, by default, receive messages to adjust their energy usage during the event period, but there is no penalty for higher energy costs if they do not.

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“Making small adjustments here and there can actually go a long way in helping us reduce the overall energy demand across the system,” Smith said.

What happens during a flex event?

Customers enrolled in Flex Smart allow PSE to automatically lower the thermostat during flex events.

By default, all PSE customers are enrolled in flex event notifications. Smith said customers must opt-out to discontinue the alert notifications. If customers don’t mind letting PSE control their home thermostat, they can opt for a program called Flex Smart.

Residential electric customers with an AMI smart meter, a two-way communication system between the meter and the utility, and a smart thermostat like a Google Nest, could see the thermostat’s set temperature drop between two and three degrees.

“A few minutes before that event starts, your thermostat gets a signal to do some preconditioning to warm up the home a little bit,” Smith said. “So you don’t lose any level of comfort during the demand response event.”

PSE automatically signals the thermostats to drop their set temperature for the length of the flex event. Once the event is over, those thermostats automatically return to normal, according to Smith.

Smith added that a customer can override PSE’s lowering of the thermostat at any time during the flex event without any penalty.

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Customers who enroll in Flex Smart get an upfront enrollment bonus of $50 for signing up and $20 per season for staying enrolled. There are two seasons per year, winter and summer. If a customer doesn’t have a smart thermostat, they can opt into a flex rewards program.

“You do get an enrollment bonus, and you get $1-per-kilowatt-hour of avoided energy during events,” Smith said.

Smith emphasized that PSE doesn’t sell customers’ usage data to third parties.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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Puget Sound Energy’s ‘flex event’ affected 260,000 customers amid cold spell