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PG&E offers discounts through energy conservation programs

Jennifer Terman
Staff Writer

The wave of heat that has smothered Nevada County this summer could actually produce energy cost savings with programs through Pacific Gas and Electric, the utility company reported in a news release.

“During hotter periods when there’s heavy demand on the electric grid, in exchange for participating in that program you get a break on electric usage outside those peak day hours,” said PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno.

PG&E offers SmartRate and Peak Day Pricing programs to allow customers to be charged based on time of use, rather than just amount of electricity used.

SmartRate is a voluntary pricing plan for residential customers.

Peak Day Pricing applies to businesses and larger systems where PG&E designates no more than 15 days for a customer to shift energy use between 2 and 7 p.m. in the summer season, and then the rest of the year will include a discounted rate.

The conservation helps reduce power grid strain and ensure energy reliability, Moreno said.

“We have to have enough generation and wires and infrastructure available so we can deliver as much energy as is demanded,” he said.

“If we’re not able to do that, there would be power outages.”

The California energy crisis of 2001 is an example of such a crisis, Moreno said, which actually sparked the new efficiency programs such as the SmartRate and time-of-use pricing.

“If we’re able to reduce the power grid strain through these programs such as SmartRate, we can avoid having to build more power plants and have less reliance on older, less efficient fossil fuels.”

The need to use out-of-state electricity is also avoided, which makes energy costs cheaper, Moreno said.

Nevada County has 1,058 SmartRate participants and eight entities, which include private businesses and agencies such as school districts, that participate in Peak Day Pricing.

Nevada Joint Union High School District has participated in the peak day pricing program since 2010 and has since saved more than $63,000 in energy costs, Moreno said.

The peak-day pricing period for the district is five months a year, which means the district saved that amount in a matter of 20 months.

“The district has aggressively pursued energy efficiency opportunities, and PG&E has a close relationship with the district,” Moreno said.

He added that the district also enrolled in a chiller replacement project and improvements to pool heating and pumps in 2013, which further helps automate heating and cooling during those peak months.

Beginning in May 2010, large commercial and industrial customers automatically transitioned to Peak Day Pricing, and large agriculture customers automatically switched in February 2011.

Small and medium business customers will automatically transition starting in November 2014, according to the PG&E website.

Visit pge.com/smartrate or pge.com/pdp for more information.

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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