September 26, 2021

Using electricity during peak hours in Southern California? It may cost you – San Bernardino Sun

Using electricity during peak hours in Southern California? It may cost you – San Bernardino Sun


Thousands of San Bernardino County residents must decide if they want to transition to a electricity billing plan that charges different rates for peak and off-peak usage times.

About 45,000 Southern California Edison customers in the county received notices this month saying they will be transitioned to a state-ordered “time of use” rate plan by Nov. 1. The customers will be moved to the plan unless they opt out, explained Ron Gales, SCE spokesman.

Southern California Edison workers install power lines at the Vista Substation in Grand Terrace on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (File photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

A breakdown of the notified customers in selected cities are as follows:

• Fontana: 6,429

• Rancho Cucamonga: 5,914

• Victorville: 5,497

• Hesperia: 4,245

• Lake Arrowhead: 2,805

• Rialto: 2,765

Most other customers in the county are not yet included in the Nov. 1 transition period, but will be notified in the future, Gales said.

Los Angeles County customers have not yet started the transition to time of use plans but that could begin in December, he said. In Orange County, 345,000 SCE customers have been notified, he said. In Riverside County, about 144,000 customers will get their notifications in early September for a Dec. 1 transition, Gales added.

Rates by time of day

Under the plan, customers are charged more for electricity use between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. and less during the rest of the 24-hour period.

For June through September, off-peak rate is 27 cents per kilowatt-hour. The peak rate is 43 cents per kilowatt-hour on weekdays, and 35 cents on weekends. For winter rates (October-May), rates from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. are 38 cents on weekdays and weekends, while at other times the rates are between 26 cents and 29 cents.

Time of use rates are lower earlier in the day and late at night, when demand is lower and more clean energy is available, Gales explained. The rates are higher when energy demand increases, usually from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. or from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., depending on the rate plan chosen by customers.

Will ratepayers’ bills go up? That depends on whether they use more electricity during peak hours or less, Gales said. Or the customer can skip the time of use plan and stick with the tiered rate structure, which charges for total electricity used with different rates by usage, not the time electricity is drawn.

Since the program roll-out began in 2017, about 900,000 SCE households are enrolled. The rate of customer opt-outs has been 13%. Between the November 2021 to April 2022 phase-in, SCE expects the opt-out rate to climb to 15% to 20%, according to Gales. During that time, the company hopes to transition a total of 2.3 million households.

“If you can use most of your electricity before 4 p.m. or after 9 p.m., you can take advantage of lower rates,” he said. The change is in how the electricity usage is charged. This is not a program that would turn off power for residential customers or lead to blackouts, he said.

“It is part of a statewide effort to try to influence customer behaviors,” Gale said. “It is to reward customers for moving energy use away from the 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. time period.”

The solar drop-off

What is driving the switch to time of use rate structures? The answer is complicated. First, it is a program approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. Second, the idea is to balance the power grid during high-demand months and also use clean energy to cut down on greenhouse gases that cause global climate change.

California generates a great deal of solar power from large installations mostly found in the desert, known as solar farms. This energy is renewable, cleaner and less expensive than energy burning fossil fuels.

The state grid has an abundance of solar-produced electricity during daylight hours. But around 4 p.m. those energy sources begin to decline, forcing SCE and other utilities to turn on plants burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas, to meet the demand, Gales explained.

That causes more pollution and is more costly.

For example, during the peak energy usage time, SCE may ramp up a natural-gas-fired plant in Redlands to meet demand in the Inland Empire, he said. Or it will have to buy more power from outside sources — again a more costly endeavor.

“We would rather not do that,” he said. “We’d rather people use California energy.”



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