Texas Residential Rates as of 6/8/2015

Location 12 Months 24 Months
Houston 9.9¢ 9.8¢
Dallas 9.3¢ 9.2¢
Corpus Christi 10.2¢ 10.1¢
Fort Worth 9.8¢ 9.6¢

Only American Enerpower provides FINAL electricity rates with ALL costs, except sales tax. No hidden fees added later. American Enerpower gathers rates from multiple reliable suppliers and presents the supplier with the lowest current rate.

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SMUD: Time-of-use is the future of rate design

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By Robert Walton

A two-year pilot program testing time-of-use (TOU) rates has led officials at Sacramento Municipal Utility District to determine that variable pricing can help control peak loads and reduce the need for new generation. Ultimately, the utility decided, time-of-use should be made the default rate for all customers.

A final evaluation of the company’s SmartPricing Options pilot was published late last year, and the findings showed the utility was able to shift up to 10% of its peak load to shoulder hours, while revealing other benefits as well.

“Customers loved it, we got some pretty good load shift and actually some reduction as well. The reduction wasn’t nearly as big as the shift was, but any time you can get a little reduction in energy use in addition to shifting it’s good,” said Erik Krause, SMUD’s TOU rate manager.

The SmartPricing Options pilot began in 2012 as part of a larger, $308 million smart grid program, backed in part by a $127 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. A total of 11 utilities participated in researched aimed at studying dynamic pricing in different regions of the country.

SMUD’s pilot returned more than just significant load shifts. The study showed that how variable pricing is implemented is critical to its success, what types of information customers respond to, and what they often ignore.

How the pilot worked

SMUD offered three pricing plans in the pilot, targeting a shift in its peak summer demand from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“We’ve got about 400 MW of energy we use just during a short period of the summer, during that peak time,” Krause said. “If customers are able to shift out of that, we might be able to avoid buying power on the open market or building an extra power plant.”

Under a TOU rate option, participants were charged an on-peak price of 27 cents/kWh between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, excluding holidays, and then reverted to a rate of 8.46 cents/kWh for the first 700 kWh they consumed.

Customers on the Critical Peak Pricing (CPP) option were charged 75 cents/kWh during CPP event hours, when temperatures were expected to be very high, and then reverted to 8.51 cents/KWh for the first 700 kWh.

A third rate option combined the TOU plan along with critical peak pricing.

Carol Stimmel, founder of utility consulting firm Manifest Mind, said pricing is a critical piece of making TOU rates work, but stressed that regional differences will also play a role. If the difference between a standard and peak or critical rate is “dramatic,” she said said, “I think you will see people responding and I think that’s one of the things we need to parse through. What makes a price change shift compelling?”

But in some areas the difference between peak and off-peak is small; some regions see more heating demand, others cooling. “Your pricing scheme really needs to reflect that,” Stimmel said.

Given a choice, SMUD learned that customers prefer the TOU to CPP rate plans by about 2 to 1, and the utility realized that communicating critical peak events was more complex than originally believed. But perhaps more important than the rate plans is how customers were recruited. The utility marketed the programs to a set of customers who ultimately opted-in the the variable rates, and then defaulted in another set of customers.

Average reductions were higher among opt-in customers, Krause said, by roughly 50%. In the first year of the program the average peak-time reduction for an opt-in customer was 0.17 kW, versus 0.12 kW for customers defaulted into the rate. But despite the larger averages, a TOU default rate would still be SMUD’s preference.

While other TOU pilot programs that allow customers to opt-in struggle to get 10% of the the customers they reach out to on a new rate program, SMUD found that its retention rates for customers defaulted into the program was about 90%. So, even if each defaulted-in customer saved a bit less than the ones who chose TOU, the overall savings and load shift was much greater. Plus, SMUD saved on all the customer acquisition costs with defaulted-in customers that would have been spent to attract them to the new program.

“There is a difference [in energy savings], but it definitely did not outweigh the costs of recruiting. It didn’t overcome the added load you save just by having a volume of customers,” Krause said. “You’ve got to spend a lot of money to recruit customers to join by choice. … You’re going to get a better impact on your load by getting customers on [TOU] as a standard rate.”

Ultimately, Krause said the utility was able to shift between 8% and 10% of its load outside the 4-7 p.m. peak time.

“From a long-term perspective, as we get more customers moved onto a time-based or a critical peak rate it will help avoid building more generation or purchasing power on the open market,” Krause said. “It won’t necessarily help us reduce rates but it will help us avoid raising them further.”

SMUD will file for standard TOU rates

The pilot led SMUD officials to believe variable power pricing is the future, and ultimately the utility will seek to make the scheme permanent in some form.

Roughly 6,000 customers are still signed on to the SmartPricing Options rate, and Krause said the utility would continue offering it to them through 2017.

“From a long-term perspective, we’re leveraging what we’ve learned on the communications side as well as the rate design,” he said.

SMUD is currently redesigning its rates, and will seek to offer a TOU rate, with no critical peak component, beginning 2016. That initial non-pilot variable rate will be offered to customers with solar panels and those currently on the TOU plan. Beginning in 2017, the same rate design will be available to all consumers on an opt-in basis.

A year later, Krause said the utility will ask its board of directors to move towards TOU as a standard rate, one that customers would be defaulted into and would have to opt out of if they were unsatisfied. SMUD will still need to go through a formal rate process to make that happen, but Krause said “we believe we should move to having time of use rates be standard in 2018. … You would still have a choice to opt out, but the standard rate would be time of use.”

Can in-home displays be cost effective?

SMUD’s pilot offered some customers an in-home energy display which would show them how much energy they were consuming, but the devices will not be a standard offer with the rate in the future because of low utilization rates.

“We don’t intend to offer in-home displays,” Krause said. “They are cost prohibitive and not a lot of customers used them.”

More than 60% of customers who opted into the program never connected the devices. And many people used the devices for a limited time and then stopped. But that has led SMUD to offer an innovative and free program which allows customers to “check out” an in-home display. “It works just like a book checkout from the library,” Krause said.

The problem is that most of the information coming off of the devices is static – your television washer and dryer should draw the same amount of power each time you use them, and so the devices eventually lose their usefulness. Under SMUD’s check-out program, “people have them for about two weeks, check out what different appliances use and then from that point forward they know what the heavy-use items are in their home,” Krause said.

In home energy management, devices have a long history of limited use. Stimmel has authored research finding the future of the market is likely in service providers consolidating energy into their offerings, rather than individual monitoring devices. SMUD’s program, which would lend the devices through the utility or a local library, is a way to make the devices more cost effective. It is one way to avoid the “mean time to kitchen drawer” problem, as Stimmel has called it, where customers stop using devices after their initial interest, and stick them in the junk drawer in the kitchen.

“At the end of the day, that’s always been one of the biggest problems,” Stimmel said. “You find a lack of sustained interest. … It’s interesting at first to learn how something works. In this case, how your home works. But after that, it’s only interesting when there is a problem.”

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Shell’s Arctic drilling plans on track as Obama administration OKs lease sale

Shell’s Arctic drilling plans on track as Obama administration OKs lease sale


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration reaffirmed a 2008 government auction of Arctic drilling rights on Tuesday, delivering a major victory to Shell Oil Co. as it aims to resume exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

In validating the seven-year-old auction, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stressed that the Arctic “is an important component of the administration’s national energy strategy.”

“We remain committed to taking a thoughtful and balanced approach to oil and gas leasing and exploration offshore Alaska,” Jewell said in a statement. “This unique, sensitive and often challenging environment requires effective oversight to ensure all activities are conducted safely and responsibly.”

Read more ›

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Many factors influence electricity prices

The cost of generating electricity is the largest component of the price of electricity.

graph showing estimates of major components of electricity price: generation 65%,distribution 25%, transmission 9%

Click to enlarge »

Did you know?

The cost to supply electricity actually varies minute-by-minute.

During the course of a single day, the wholesale price of electricity on the electric power grid reflects the real-time cost for supplying electricity. Demand for electricity is a major factor affecting the cost to supply electricity. Electricity demand is usually highest in the afternoon and early evening (so called peak hours), and costs to provide electricity are usually higher at these times.

Most consumers pay prices based on the seasonal average cost of providing electricity so they do not experience these daily price fluctuations. Some utilities offer their customers time-of-day pricing to encourage conservation and to reduce peak demand for electricity.

Many factors influence electricity prices

Electricity prices generally reflect the costs to build, finance, maintain, and operate power plants and the electricity grid (the complex system of power transmission and distribution lines). Some for-profit utilities also include a return for owners and shareholders in their prices. Read more ›

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Tankless water heaters, They’re efficient but not necessarily economical

Tankless water heaters
They’re efficient but not necessarily economical


Tankless water heaters

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Heating water accounts for up to 30 percent of the average home’s energy budget. Some makers of gas-fired tankless water heaters claim their products can cut your energy costs up to half over regular storage heaters. So is it time to switch?

Probably not. Gas tankless water heaters, which use high-powered burners to quickly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger, were 22 percent more energy efficient on average than the gas-fired storage-tank models in our tests. That translates into a savings of around $70 to $80 per year, based on 2008 national energy costs. But because they cost much more than storage water heaters, it can take up to 22 years to break even—longer than the 20-year life of many models. Moreover, our online poll of 1,200 readers revealed wide variations in installation costs, energy savings, and satisfaction.

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Catching Waves and Turning Them Into Electricity


An artist’s rendering of experimental buoys made by Carnegie Wave Energy. The buoys harness the motion of waves  off Australia and use it to create electricity and desalinate water Credit Carnegie Wave Energy Limited

MELBOURNE, Australia — Off the coast of Western Australia, three big buoys floating beneath the ocean’s surface look like giant jellyfish tethered to the seafloor. The steel machines, 36 feet wide, are buffeted by the powerful waves of the Indian Ocean. By harnessing the constant motion of the waves, the buoys generate about 5 percent of the electricity used at a nearby military base on Garden Island.

The buoys are a pilot project of Carnegie Wave Energy, a company based in Perth and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. In late February, the buoys started supplying 240 kilowatts each to the electricity grid at HMAS Stirling, Australia’s largest naval base. They also help run a desalination plant that transforms seawater into about one-third of the base’s fresh water supply.

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Texas Residential Prices as of 05/11/2015

Location 12 Months 24 Months
Houston 9.9¢ 9.8¢
Dallas 9.1¢ 9.0¢
Corpus Christi 10.0¢ 9.9¢
Fort Worth 9.6¢ 9.5¢

Only American Enerpower provides FINAL electricity rates with ALL costs, except sales tax. No hidden fees added later. American Enerpower gathers rates from multiple reliable suppliers and presents the supplier with the lowest current rate.

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Energy Transfer Partners pumps $308M profit in first quarter

Energy Transfer Partners pumps $308M profit in first quarter

May 6, 2015, 6:40pm CDT
Staff Writer- Dallas Business Journal

Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE: ETP) posted a net income of $308 million in the first quarter, down 37 percent from the same period a year ago.

The earnings also include a pro forma for the Dallas-based midstream’s merger with Regency Energy Partners, which closed on April 30.

While Regency does boost revenues beyond $10 billion, net income actually drops on the pro forma by 12 percent.

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U.S. must take advantage of energy industry now

U.S. must take advantage of energy industry now

Reid T. Porter Contributing Columnist

This is America’s energy moment.

Abundant, affordable and available resources have made us a world leader in energy. And the U.S. oil and natural gas industry is ready to work with elected officials, policymakers and residents in Pennsylvania to ensure the moment lasts and creates a strong American energy future.

Rather than adding additional taxes that constrict opportunities for the commonwealth’s economy to grow, we should support energy policies that grow the market for Pennsylvanian businesses.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is available to discuss opportunities such as the benefits of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and to speak with Pennsylvania residents about the importance of America’s oil and natural gas industry to the region’s economy and our nation’s energy future. Read more ›

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Energy Saving and Safety Tips for Tenants and Renters

Energy Saving and Safety Tips For Tenants and Renters

Today, whether you rent or own, almost everyone is searching for ways to reduce their energy costs. Although the landlord or management company is ultimately responsible for a building’s energy efficiency and safety, there are many simple safety and energy conservation measures that anyone can take.


Apartment Safety

Power for electronics is a growing part of many people’s energy bill. Computers, televisions, and chargers for phones and portable devices start to add up. Consider plugging all your equipment into a power strip which, when switched off, will eliminate any standby draw from these devices. This also has the added benefit of protecting your equipment from possible power surges.

For computers, keep them in “sleep” mode when not in use or turn off completely. Contrary to popular beliefs, turning a computer on and off is not harmful. Depending on how you use these electronics, they could increase your energy bill by 20 percent. Read more ›

Posted in Fun Facts and Tips