Edison rate change

POWER SOURCE — Solar panels dot the landscape at 130th Street West, looking north from Avenue A in Rosamond. With an abundance of renewable energy sources during the day, Southern California Edison is changing its rate structure to be less expensive during the day while these sources are generating power, and more expensive in the late afternoon and evening as gas-powered plants are fired up to make up the difference.

The growth of renewable energy production has led Southern California Edison to make a change in its rate structure to reflect the changed times of day when energy production is at its lowest cost.

The change affects those customers on the utility’s time-of-use plans, when rates vary by the time of day to reflect the costs of energy production and use at those times.

In a switch, the least ex­pensive periods for energy production from October to May are now from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., when renewable en­ergy such as solar power is abun­dant. The peak time, when rates are the highest, is from 4 to 9 p.m.

“When the sun goes down, we have to sup­ple­ment the needs of our customers with gas-pow­ered generation,” said Rus­sell Garwacki, SCE dir­ect­or of pricing design and research.

Where the catch phrase for energy efficiency was once to “give your ap­pli­an­ces the afternoon off,” Edison is now ad­vis­ing customers to do the opposite, and use the morn­ing and early af­ter­noon for energy-intensive tasks.

“We’re really trying to en­courage customers to see what they can shift to dur­ing that period,” said Andre Ramirez, SCE prin­cip­al ad­visor for pricing design and re­search.

Changing use patterns not only saves money, but also helps to manage the en­er­gy grid, Garwacki said.

The state produces so much renewable energy during the middle of the day that it exports it elsewhere at times.

“We would obviously pre­fer not to do that,” he said.

Business customers have been on the time-of-use plans for many years, first with the largest users, but now with all bus­i­ness customers thanks to electronic meters that make such precise read­ings cost-effective, Gar­wacki said.

These business cus­tom­ers saw their rate structure switch on March 1.

Residential customers may choose to enroll in the time-of-use program at any time. Edison provides an online rate comparison tool which uses individual customers’ usage data to see if a switch to time-of-use would be of benefit.

For residential cus­tom­ers, the tool may be found at www.sce.com/rateplantool.

For business customers, the tool is at www.sce.com/ratetool.

The program comes with one year of bill protection for those residential cus­tom­ers that switch to time-of-use, in which the utility will credit the account for the difference if it turns out the switch results in higher costs than they would have experienced on their prior plan. This is “effectively a risk-free trial period,” Garwacki said.

In October 2020, the utility will begin shifting residential customers to the time-of-use program auto­matically, although they may still opt out if they so choose.

Programs offered to help low-income customers will apply to either the time-of-use or the existing tier rate structures.

The change in the time-of-use rate structure took several years to put in place, and is the first such change in about 30 years, Gar­wacki said.

“We don’t change those time-of-use periods light­ly,” he said.

It is expected the new plan will remain effective at least through 2024.

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