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Why running your washing machine in the evening could soon cost you more money

September 20, 2018

By Paul Homewood


h/t Sean



Today California, tomorrow the UK.

From the Sacromento Bee:



If you like to crank up your air conditioner or dishwasher in the evening, think twice. It’s about to cost you more on your electricity bill.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District will launch a new rate system next month that charges residential users higher rates between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. — and lower rates at other times.

SMUD, which provides electricity to more than a half-million residences in Sacramento County, has begun notifying some customers.

The rate overhaul will phase in groups of residential customers between October and April, officials said. Some customers with rooftop solar panels have been on the time-of-day system since earlier this year.

SMUD is among several major utilities in the state switching to rate systems that encourage customers to reduce energy use when peak demand strains the providers’ ability to buy and deliver electricity.

SMUD and other utilities must pay premium prices for energy they buy during peak hours, which in turn forces higher customer rates, utility officials said. Some of that peak-hour energy is drawn from older plants that are not as environmentally efficient.

“With the demand and the price increases, it becomes difficult for utilities to keep sending (electricity at) a fair price to the customer,” said Alcides Hernandez, SMUD pricing supervisor. “The intent is that SMUD is not going to make any extra revenue from this.”

The new rate system “gives customers the power to manage their bill. The decisions is theirs,” Hernandez said.

SMUD officials say they believe most customers will see a decrease in their electricity bills during between October and May, but an increase from June to September.

While SMUD hopes to reduce costs and hold down rates overall, some users will see their annual electricity rates go up if they do not control electricity usage between 5 and 8 p.m. That is typically when people come home from work and turn up the air conditioning, as well as use kitchen appliances, televisions, washing machines and dryers.

A SMUD analysis suggests that 57 percent of customers would experience a monthly bill increase if they do not change their usage patterns.

The SMUD plan involves setting up three different rate periods on summer weekdays. That summer-rate season will be four months long, from the beginning of June to the end of September.

The current fixed rates are 13 cents per kilowatt hour in summer and 11 cents the rest of the year.

The new summer rates will be dramatically higher. There will be a “peak rate” of 28 cents per kilowatt hour between 5 and 8 p.m. and a “mid-peak” rate of 16 cents between noon and 5 p.m. as well as between 8 p.m. and midnight.

SMUD will charge its lowest summer rate, 12 cents per kilowatt hour, between midnight and noon. SMUD will also charge that rate all day on weekends and holidays.

The utility will implement a simpler rate system for the rest of the year, from October through May. It involves two weekday rate periods – 13 cents per kilowatt hour between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and 10 cents the rest of the day.

In household usage terms, according to SMUD, a kilowatt hour could be 10 hours of TV, 12 pounds of laundry, vacuuming for one hour or using a plugged-in laptop computer for five to 10 hours.

A statewide customer advocacy group says switching to time-based rates does not necessarily prompt lower usage or energy conservation, and it could penalize some families who are not in a position to change their use hours.

“We think customers should be rewarded with tiered rates based on how much you use, not when you use it,” said Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for TURN, The Utility Reform Network. “With time-based rates, they are rewarded if they are in the enviable position of being able to shift their usage. If you work during the day, you can’t do that.”

SMUD officials say they are offering customers the ability to opt out of the time-of-day system and stick with a fixed-rate bill. Hernandez said, on the average, the fixed-rate bill is expected to be about 4 percent more costly than the new rates. He said the utility is mailing information to people showing them the possible different costs of the two systems.

The new rate structure will not apply to customers who don’t have a smart meter or those who live in a residential master metered community.

Despite the spin, this is SDMUD’s way to ration electricity, when supply becomes intermittent and unreliable.

In California’s case, that is when the sun goes down in early evening. In the UK, it will be when the wind does not blow.

  1. September 20, 2018 10:13 pm

    Sales of rechargeable devices look set to rise.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      September 21, 2018 10:11 am

      “Rechargeable Washing Machine” – I’m surprised Sir James Dyson hasn’t got one ready for the market. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to carry the battery very far…

      • September 21, 2018 12:19 pm

        The batteries could substitute for the concrete counterweight ….?

        I must patent that.

  2. Graeme No.3 permalink
    September 20, 2018 11:34 pm

    The hidden cost of “cheap” solar. Renewables don’t provide during the peak demand periods so the ‘solution’ is to raise tariffs not think about the failure of present policies.

  3. markl permalink
    September 21, 2018 12:21 am

    Trying to rationalize the intermittent and costly nature of wind and solar electricity generation ……… and failing.

  4. BLACK PEARL permalink
    September 21, 2018 12:48 am

    This is what Smart Meters are for.
    Ability to charge you by the half hour when power is in short supply and at its most expensive, or individually cut you off at their convenience.

    • September 21, 2018 12:24 pm

      As far as Smart Meter disconnection is concerned I’ve been looking and can only find prepay credit meters. If anybody is aware of a remote disconnect meter that’s in volume production I’m all ears…. – I have been sporadically looking for one with no success.

      Smart Meters are designed to bring the joys of ambush pricing to the energy market – end of.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        September 21, 2018 1:53 pm

        While not directly answering your query, ‘Smart’ meters are able to cut off the supply as when one poor unfortunate found out when his new gas meter developed faults and shut him down. I would have thought it was a small step to make this controllable remotely.

      • September 21, 2018 4:49 pm

        I’ve been looking around the manufacturer and distributor web sites for simply ages and all the units I’ve see are essentially logging instruments that transfer readings to a retailer – I have not seen one Smart Meter (beyond the credit pre-pay variety) that has the much vaunted remote cut-off facility installed and enabled – still looking …..

  5. September 21, 2018 1:01 am

    They never mention the “duck curve” in the article but I’ve got to think it’s the driver in this pricing structure. The Duck Curve is the demand for power during a 24 hour day after subtracting out solar and wind generation. If you look at the generation profiles,, solar is more than half the renewable generation profile but only between 9 AM and 5 PM while thermal, imports (power from out of state), nuclear and hydro are responsible for 80% of baseload generation. Nuclear is gone from the state by 2022, and the state just outlawed thermal by 2045 so the duck curve is going to get much worse in a few short years and I suspect the time of use pricing curve will continue to proportion out with its shape.
    I will say this, we should all thank the good folks as SMUD for clarifying smart metering of electricity’s importance.

  6. September 21, 2018 3:45 am

    The current rate in San Diego is 45 cents perkwh.

  7. September 21, 2018 5:10 am

    So the well to do continue as normal and the poor get financially screwed or have to change their habits. Disgraceful

  8. September 21, 2018 6:20 am

    Now there’s a new phrase: “environmentally efficient”. Obviously it is a propaganda phrase invented by the greenblob; it sounds good to the useless idiots and will no doubt be used by the BBC propaganda department.

  9. September 21, 2018 6:24 am

    So they are going to charge more when they can’t supply power than when they can? Have I got this right? Does this mean that when there is a blackout it will be very expensive indeed?

  10. Tony Budd permalink
    September 21, 2018 9:10 am

    Seems like a recipe for more house fires and floods as people leave washing machines, etc on while they’re out at work or wherever.

    • September 21, 2018 10:06 am

      The law of unintended consequences – it’s normal for bureaucracies .

      • Gerry, England permalink
        September 21, 2018 1:55 pm

        The next law will ban you from using appliances unattended as their response to the problem caused their first legislation. Never a thought of removing the original law.

  11. Mike H permalink
    September 21, 2018 10:33 am

    France has had 2-tier pricing for decades. Everyone is used to it. Taking a positive view, it does make sense to try and smooth the demand curve – which is why the French did it as load-following with nukes was a challenge.
    With today’s app-based controls and programmable equipment these folk could, for example, set their aircon to run before the peak period so the house is already cool when they get home.
    However, in the real world, this looks like another unintended consequence of the drive for renewables with the associated opportunity to gouge the customer.

    • JimW permalink
      September 21, 2018 11:03 am

      France also has STOD tariffs with multiple rates for TOD. Doesn’t mean hardly anyone is on them! In fact so few were persuaded to use them, EdF withdrew them for normal households.
      Something most ‘greenies’ don’t think of, and I include the brainless idiots now running our Elec Utilities, is that the distribution and even transmission networks will need reinforcing to meet demand shifted to other times when the prices are lower. In other words the tariffs will not collect the required money to meet these reinforcement costs if enough demand is shifted by STOD tariffs. Then someone has to provide even more subsidies to pay for the reinfocement. Or of course no-one does and you get brown outs and black outs because of network failures. This is not ‘make believe’, the E7 tariff created exactly this situation in the S West in the 80s and had to be discontinued as a consequence.

    • September 21, 2018 12:38 pm

      There is this little thing called “liberty.” I do not have liberty when the government or government through a utility tells me when I can wash my clothes or be punished with higher costs.

  12. Ian permalink
    September 21, 2018 10:52 am

    As Black Pearl noted, a smart meter would be required for this to apply. The article suggests most, if not all users have one, or it won’t work.

  13. Ben Vorlich permalink
    September 21, 2018 11:16 am

    I suppose that the time the sun sets is known decades in advance which makes it easier for a household to manage, running dishwashers and washing machines at midday for example. For UK citizens the wind turning off is totally random and therefore unmanageable.

  14. fretslider permalink
    September 21, 2018 11:29 am

    “The new rate structure will not apply to customers who don’t have a smart meter”

    You aren’t obliged to get a smart meter – yet…

  15. RogerJC permalink
    September 21, 2018 11:48 am

    Two points to think about. Firstly it is not recommended to run appliances like washing machines and dryers unattended, which a charging scheme such as this would encourage. Secondly, it is easy to predict when the sun is going down with a subsequent drop in solar power and an increase in generating cost. But who can predict when the wind will not blow, or blow too strongly, making it impossible for the consumer to know when power is at its cheapest.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 21, 2018 1:57 pm

      Looking to the weather for Sunday the classic MetO quote is that it ‘looks uncertain at the moment’. So that will be a comfort when their forecasts will control our electricity use. Also rubbishes their claim to be accurate 5 days out, usually based on changing the forecast every few hours and then claiming to be correct.

  16. September 21, 2018 12:41 pm

    This makes the case for coal or gas-fired power plants which are not only much cheaper to run but are highly reliable. Coal is especially reliable, as President Trump has pointed out because it is basically indestructible. Pipelines, solar and wind can be taken out by terrorists, etc., but a pile of coal is a different matter.

    • BLACK PEARL permalink
      September 21, 2018 4:00 pm

      Good point

    • RogerJC permalink
      September 21, 2018 4:41 pm

      Reminds me of the IRA attack on a power station in Northern Ireland where they placed a bomb on the steam drum. A six inch thick bit of steel stands up to a lot of explosive and it dented the drum a bit and but the boiler carried on working.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      September 22, 2018 1:00 am

      Joan Gibson:
      Most coal fired stations maintain high stock levels of fuel; I am told that coming into winter in the Northern part of the USA these stockpiles can be 2 – 3 months supply. So snow, blizzards, strikes don’t interrupt operation.
      That was very useful in the last winter in New England as gas and oil supplies were constrained by the pipeline capacity (which hadn’t been increased in years because of nimby’s).
      If only someone would invent a meter that cuts off Greenies when the results of their previous actions occur and let them freeze. To quote Marie Antoinette “let them burn their placards”.

  17. BLACK PEARL permalink
    September 21, 2018 3:59 pm

    Of coarse this will make the over night charging of their preferred electric vehicles ready for work in the morning more expensive, presuming they have enough ‘juice’ left in the grid after the solar goes to sleep.

    • thedude permalink
      September 21, 2018 11:28 pm

      This got me curious, so I did some maths.
      My car (’14 Mazda 3, 2.0l) costs almost 9c/mile.
      Tesla 3 Long Ranger would cost 4c/mile at mid-peak and over 7c/mile at high-peak.

      Ahhh, the savings! I would make up that $30,000 difference in purchase price in no time!

  18. Michael permalink
    September 23, 2018 11:07 am

    hmm, doesn’t bother me. I routinely run the washing machine and dish washer overnight on cheap rate ‘leccy. What’s the problem? all machines come with delay timers built in. I’ve never seen the guidelines claiming they shouldn’t be run unattended and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s no valid data to back up the claim.

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