Here are answers to many questions related to the “safer-at-home” phase of Colorado and Larimer County’s coronavirus response.
Fort Collins Utilities customers are switching to the summer time-of-day electricity rate structure effective Friday, which means electricity used between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays will be more expensive than electricity used during the rest of the day.
From May 1 through the end of September, electricity used during “peak use” times will cost about 26 cents per kilowatt-hour. Electricity used outside of the peak-use window will cost about 7 cents per kilowatt-hour. The peak hours are effective on nonholiday weekdays, and the recognized holidays are Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day.
During the fall and winter months, peak-use hours were from 5 to 9 p.m., and electricity used during the peak hours cost a few cents less than the summer peak rate (about 22 cents per kilowatt-hour).
The shift comes as Fort Collins is transitioning to life under the statewide “safer at home” order, a stepped-back version of the stay at home order that shuttered all non-essential businesses and left much of the city home-bound. While many businesses are now entering a phased reopening, schools remain closed and people are still encouraged to work from home and avoid venturing out in public as much as possible.
Responding to a surge of resident questions and concerns about the financial impact of TOD rates during the coronavirus outbreak, Fort Collins City Council member Ken Summers asked city staff in April to look into temporarily waiving the tiered electricity rate. The tiered rate, which applies to the roughly 91% of Fort Collins Utilities customers who don’t have electric heating, charges an additional 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for all electricity used over 700 kWh each month.
THE COST OF CHANGE: City analyzes electricity bill impacts of time-of-day rates
“Right now, with people working from home, with kids doing school work at home, the whole concept and baseline of the tiered rate is kind of skewed because of how much people are at home during the day,” Summers said at council’s April 7 Electric Utility Enterprise meeting.
Mayor Wade Troxell and council member Ross Cunniff agreed, asking for financial analysis of the TOD rates since many Fort Collins residents started spending the bulk of their time cooped up at home. The TOD rate structure is supposed to be revenue neutral for Fort Collins Utilities.
In a memo to council, city staff said they recommend no change to the time-of-day rate structure. They said delaying the seasonal shift to summer peak hours would likely create confusion among customers without benefiting them very much, and eliminating the tier charge would benefit only those customers who use the most electricity while providing no benefit to those who use less.
“Based on extensive rate sensitivity modeling, both during the TOD pilot and the recent analysis following the first year of TOD, staff continues to believe that if customers are diligent in managing their on-peak use, there will be minimal, if any, financial impacts to their utility bills, as the off-peak periods, which range from 19-20 hours each day and all weekends are 30% lower in price than the average cost of electricity,” staff wrote in the memo.
It’s possible to save money under the time-of-day electricity rate structure by shifting your electricity use outside of the peak hours. Some of the biggest summertime electricity-hogging appliances are air conditioning, drying machines and electric ovens. Utilities recommends pre-cooling your home by setting your air conditioning a few degrees lower than your desired temperature before the peak hours begin and adjusting your thermostat a few degrees higher than your desired temperature when peak hours start.
LIFE AT HOME: Victory gardens are back. Here’s how to grow one
In a typical year, Fort Collins residents use about 80% of their electricity outside of peak hours, according to Utilities analysis. It’s not clear how that has changed since the coronavirus outbreak.
Customers having trouble paying their bills can contact Utilities at 970-212- 2900 to receive financial assistance or arrange for a payment plan. Customers can now receive bill payment assistance twice during the current program year, which ends Sept. 30, as long as they don’t exceed a benefit of $1,500 this program year.
Lower-income customers might also qualify for the Income Qualified Assistance Program, which is available for qualified customers enrolled in the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program. The city has extended the LEAP application season because of the coronavirus outbreak and will accept applications until funding runs out.
Find details at fcgov.com/utilities/iqap.
Utilities has also suspended service shutoffs for nonpayment during the coronavirus outbreak.
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support stories like this one by purchasing a digital subscription to the Coloradoan.
Read or Share this story: https://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2020/05/01/fort-collins-shifts-summer-time-day-electricity-rates/3065802001/