Energy & Environment

Balancing the Load

Golden State utilities plan for peak-time pricing
by | July 2005

Some Southern California residents could soon be paying more to use electricity during peak hours and less in off-peak periods, under a proposal by San Diego Gas & Electric. The utility has submitted a plan to state regulators to use advanced electric meters to track consumer electricity use in real-time. Customers' electric rates would fluctuate throughout the day according to demand: Washing a load of laundry might cost more at 3 p.m. than at 9 p.m. The utility hopes to reduce energy usage during peak times.

In addition to the rate changes, the new meters would provide real- time information to SDG&E, allowing the utility to detect power outages more quickly and to read meters without sending readers from house to house.

The state could approve the proposal later this year, and California's two largest utilities, Southern California Gas Co. and Pacific Gas & Electric, may also move to the new meters. If approved, SDG&E would begin a pilot program to test the meters. "Right now, we get information once a month. We'll have to see how it all works when we start getting information constantly," sats a utility official. Ultimately, the utility plans to spend about $420 million over the next four years replacing the 1.3 million electric meters throughout its system.

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