Real-time pricing can cut electric costs

On this Earth Day, local electric utility ComEd says customers who've tried its residential real-time pricing program have cut their electric bills by an average of 15 percent.
The savings also help the environment by reducing the total pollution levels from power plants.
The utility says the savings for the average customer in the program last year amounted to $185.
Under the standard fixed-price rate, the price for electricity is the same no matter what time of day customers use it. But with the real-time pricing program customers pay lower prices for electricity during off-peak hours, including nights and weekends.
Using less electricity during summer afternoons when electricity costs are typically highest and shifting the use of power-hungry appliances to lower-priced hours helps maximize the potential savings.
So, program participants can cut costs by being smart about how much electricity they use and when they use it. Many participants shifted use of major appliances to lower priced hours to save money. Other participants saved without changing their behavior, because they don’t use a lot of peak period energy to begin with, such as those who are away at work during the day, and this program rewards them for their current behavior.
By reducing the electricity required during peak periods, participants help reduce the use of older, less efficient and more polluting generation facilities that are only used in brief periods of high demand. In this way, participants help reduce the release of emissions that contribute to global warming.
More information about the program is available online or by calling 1-877-928-8776.



it could also INCREASE your costs

I did this for a year and it actually increased our electric bill.

I did everything you are supposed to do--shift dishwasher/clothes washer, etc... to the middle of the night.

The problem with the program was that ComEd charges you a "capacity charge", which is basically a fee that they levy as "insurance" so they can buy power for you at peak capacity times.

I was actually using less power and shifting to non-peak times, but the escalated capacity charge made my bill higher than it was before the shift.

I tried in vain to figure out how ComEd computes the capacity charge. They apparently used our proprety's peak use from 2007. After a year of participating in the RealTime pricing program they were supposed to re-compute the capacity charge to reflect changes in use, but they never did.

I tried to resolve this with their customer service, but--as you may imagine--their CS is atrocious and could never give you a straight answer.

So I switched back to the old school system.

I have heard of people's bills falling, but it certainly didn't fall in my case.

When you enter the program you have to commit to a year. Unfortunately, ComEd won't give you an estimation on what your new bill would be prior to commiting to the program. If ComEd wanted to get more participation they might consider offering these estimates. But, as I said before, customer service is not their strong suit.

Relies on trusting the system

Society overall saves money as people switch to time-based pricing because it reducing the need for building new power plants, or keeping old dirty ones running just for peak demand.

Whether or not *you* would save money by switching to this depends on how ComEd and state regulators have set pricing for the time-based fee vs. the flat rate fee.

Generally a good idea - for most people.

I joined this program last fall. Its has since saved me about $10 a month. I definitely did the homework in advance - I'm as wary of ComEd as anyone. But the program worked for me. Why? My bill is large enough (usually over $75 per month) that the annoying $2.25 monthly charge doesn't outweigh my approx 13% savings. Also, because my wife and I both work, we're away from home during high priced times. Also, its made us more aware of the electricity we're using - which is probably more important. According to the year-end summary I just got from ComEd yesterday, basically everyone saved last year. But, with respect to Ryan, I just joined, so I may have had a different experience than he did.

It might work better for heavier users

Our bill was averaging around $45-50 before the program and it rose to around $55-60 when we joined.

I'm a big environmentalist, so I had made a bunch of efficency improvements years ago. The funny thing was that I was more conscious about electricity use when on the real-time program and our actual Kwh consumption went down. Still, because of the capacity charge inanity, our bills went up even though we were using less electricity!

For people under standard plans, the capacity charge is built in to the KWh computation. ComEd claims that they will re-calculate the capacity charge after a year, but they never did in our case and their customer service people knew nothing about the real-time pricing program.

It's been a couple of years since I switched off the plan, so maybe they have their act together by now.

My beef is that ComEd is not straight with people about the costs. You would think that they could take a customer's existing bill and estimate the costs under each plan. But apparently this is beyond their competencies.

We switched to the real time

We switched to the real time pricing program (RTPP) just over a year ago. Over the first 12 months, we saved $240, or an average of $20/month.

We did not make any substantial changes to our pattern of electricity use. We run the dishwasher on a delay so it comes on in the middle of the night, and we run a basement humidifier only during the middle of the night (which we previously didn't use at all because it uses so much electricity).

Other than that, we just use electricity like normal and don't worry about the fluctuating prices.

We don't have central AC, so that might help. We generally use no more than 2 window AC units at any given time.

As others have noted, the fluctuating daily prices are only one part of the equation. The "capacity charge" is another part of your fee, and it is a bit confusing. It is based on your peek electricity consumption at anytime during the year. As I understand it, if you use a lot of electricity at one time on a day or two in the summer, that could jack up your "capacity charge" for the entire year as you have demonstrated that you use a lot of electricity at peek times. So it's doubly important not to use a lot of electricity at the peek times in the middle of the summer because it both affects what you pay at that moment and what you'll pay for the capacity charge all year. The capacity charge is set once a year for each account.

Lower Edison Bill Yourself

I did a rough calculation and determined the plan would cost us more than we currently pay. Our bill is $50/month plus or minus, and we both work on computers in the house all day.

In the summer I run the dryer and dishwasher at night, but during the winter I run them during the day to take advantage of their heat and humidity -- that helps keep the gas bill lower.

I am religious about turning off lights when I walk out of a room, and don't leave outside lights on at night --- to save electricity and light pollution. Lots of little practices help reduce bills.

We realized a savings of $217

We realized a savings of $217 for the past year according to a letter I just got from ComEd. This was done with minimal modifications of habits. We try to run the dishwasher and washing machine during the wee hours, but otherwise it has been usual usage.

Comments Great

I am new to Illinois and certainly new to ComEd -- and we've gotten off to a bad start since I had a heart attack when I received my first bill.  I just got the notice about "real time" pricing and was considering it; however, as a renter with no washer/dryer, reading the comments was helpful in my decision NOT to switch at this time.  The people who take the time to write a comment are to be commended (I rarely do) because I search them out when making decisions, particuarly purchasing decisions and there's nothing bigger than electricity!

We realized a savings of $217

We realized a savings of $217 for the past year according to a letter I just got from ComEd. This was done with minimal modifications of habits. We try to run the dishwasher and washing machine during the wee hours, but otherwise it has been usual usage.

Rate increase to make-up for defections?

News story on TV this morning that CommEd may raise rates substantially because of customers switching to other suppliers.  Heads they win, tails you loose.
I've not found confirmation to this story on the Web yet so maybe the station jumped the gun but we have seen the same story with other suppliers before.