Pilot time-of-use program adds new quarterly report for customers

BELLEVUE, Wash., Oct. 25, 2002 — Customers paying Puget Sound Energy’s time-of-use electric rates are receiving a mailed report this month comparing their bills under time-of-use rates with the bills they would have paid using fixed rates.

Over the next year, the comparison will be sent every three months to the 268,000 customers participating in the utility’s time-of-use (TOU) pilot program.

The initial customer reports, covering electricity usage from July through September, showed that most customers in the pilot would have seen little difference in their bills if they’d instead paid a traditional flat rate for electricity.

Preliminary PSE data analyzing customer bills and energy usage also reveals that the utility’s residential TOU customers continue to consume 5 percent to 6 percent less electricity during high-demand, peak hours of the day than people paying fixed rates.

A group of stakeholders, including PSE, is conducting a thorough review of the TOU program’s cost effectiveness and environmental impacts. A report of findings will be submitted to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission next summer.

“The tendency of customers in the pilot to use less power in high-demand hours remains significant even though the energy crisis of 2000-2001 has subsided,” said Penny Gullekson, PSE’s vice president, Customer Services.

The stakeholder group is also evaluating whether lowering the peaks in usage means a growing Pacific Northwest can spend less in coming years on new power plants and power-transmission systems, Gullekson said. Moreover, lowering the peak demand for energy may reduce the likelihood of a future energy emergency causing California-like rolling blackouts and higher electricity prices.

Over the past three months, PSE customers on the program paid about 80 cents per month more, on average, with time-of-use rates than they would have paid under flat-rate billing. The greatest one-month savings for a residential time-of-use customer (when compared to paying a fixed-rate bill) was $15.78. The greatest one-month bill increase from time-of-use rates was $6.46.

For small-business customers, time-of-use bills were, on average, $1.16 more per month than they would have been under flat rates. Among these customers, the highest one-month savings from time-of-use rates was $80.85. The greatest one-month bill increase was $59.42.

Time-of-use customers are able to track changes in their personal on-peak/off-peak power usage — day by day — on PSE’s Web site. They also receive a separate report with each utility bill detailing their past month’s on-peak/off-peak electricity usage. Since July, they’ve paid a $1 monthly fee for the program’s additional metering and data-collection costs.

During on-peak hours — 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday — customers in the PSE pilot pay 1.4 cents more per kilowatt hour than in off-peak times (weeknights, Sundays, and holidays). That’s about a 22 percent difference in price.

The utility’s flat-rate customers do not pay the $1 monthly fee, but neither do they receive detailed energy management information about their energy use in peak and off-peak hours.

Since the utility’s optional time-of-use program began in 2001, nearly as many customers have asked to join the pilot and pay time-of-use rates — 11,052 — as the 11,260 customers who’ve opted to switch back to flat-rate billing.

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