Utility usage subject to differing rates

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San Diego Gas and Electric has begun issuing notices to Al­pine residents informing them they are scheduled to have their rate plan changed from a tra­ditional billing plan to energy charges based on time of use.

This initiative is part of an on­going shift in how SDGE bills its customers for each kilowatt hour (kWh) of energy.

Statistics reported on the U.S. Energy Information Admin­istration website give the U.S. average retail price per kWh as $10.48 cents yet Californians pay an average of $16.06 kWh.

Although the difference is in the details of SDGE plan of­ferings, a comparison of the different pricing plans on the SDGE website show that base­line allowance and time of use are factored into every plan and contribute to the bottom line of energy bills.

The baseline allowance estab­lishes the amount of energy the average household needs to run basic appliances for cooking, lighting, and other basic func­tionality. That allowance is de­termined by SDGE independent of what individual customers deem necessary.

Time of use refers to a pricing scheme that involves dividing each daay into different time pe­riods: on peak, off peak and super off peak. Power is billed at differ­ent prices for those time periods and customers can choose how extensively they would like to break down their day.

According to information on the SDGE website, a customer who consumes the majority of their energy during off peak hours and keeps that usage un­der their baseline allowance is going to pay a different price for each kWh of power that they consume than a consumer who uses more power during peak hours and goes beyond their baseline allowance early in the monthly billing cycle.

In everyday terms, the power that is used, what time of day it is used and how far into the bill­ing cycle it is used all contribute to the final cost of that power.

Some residents might choose to simply pay for on peak or off peak power with others track­ing their energy usage exten­sively enough to benefit from adding in the super off peak us­age pricing option.

While residential clients can choose to adjust their lifestyle in an effort to reign in their energy usage, businesses in Alpine have to answer to customer de­mand and can only alter their behavior patterns to a certain extent before it interferes with their clientele.

Alpine Chamber of Com­merce CEO Alex Ward gives the example of a florist attempting to keep their wares fresh for cus­tomers.

“Imagine being a florist! AC, large refrigerators, etcetera— they can’t throttle their us­age and maintain inventory. I truly feel for them on the days SDG&E cuts power for fire safety reasons,” Ward wrote in an email.

However, SDGE Communica­tions Manager Wes Jones ex­plained that there are several rate plans from which custom­ers can choose.

“There are many have options and choices— a customer might get a letter or email on time of use but there are many options for people to consider. For ex­ample, we have time of use plans that are specifically planned around electric vehicles that not every customer knows about and might be advantageous for some people,” Jones said.

On a standard plan, custom­ers pay for energy on a monthly basis through a tiered system. As any given month progresses, customers are essentially try­ing to race the clock and keep to a low energy use so as to be charged for the cheapest tier of power.

If customers switch off the standard plan and convert to a time of use plan, there are three variations offered by SDGE that all use time periods to deter­mine that price for power.

TOU-DR1 breaks the day into three periods: on-peak, off-peak and super off-peak. Those hours are slightly different on week­ends and holidays and change during March and April.

A second time-of-use plan, TOU-DR2 is also available with the day broken up into just two periods: on or off-peak.

Yet a third time-of-use plan ex­ists, the TOU-Plus that breaks the day up into three periods that are different for holidays and weekends and also layers in “reduce your use” days priced at a different rate during certain hours.

Ostensibly, “reduce your use” days occur during the summer months when demand for energy is higher, a factor to keep in mind here in Alpine with up­coming heat waves.

According to an email from SDGE, if customers can shift some of their energy use to low­er-cost time periods outside of 4 to 9 p.m., they will see a lower electric bill no matter which rate plan they use.

Building onto the idea of charging different rates that are specific to time-of-use, SDGE has three distinct plans for resi­dential use based on the time-of-use concept that are specifically designed for people who charge an electric vehicle at home: the EV-TOU plans.

Details of plans that are spe­cific to customers who own electric vehicles are available on the SDGE website at www. sdge.com.

Along the same lines, SDGE has rolled out different options for metering a system that generates energy such as solar, wind, or biopower. There are al­so billing options for customers who are not able to install alter­native energy systems but wish to purchase renewable power from an outside vendor.

Billing details for customers with alternative energy sources can be found on the SDGE web­site.

Utility usage subject to differing rates

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