Savings possible for those able to shift electric use - thetimes-tribune.com

By David Falchek

Electricity consumers willing to wait until after hours to do laundry, charge their cellphone or run the air conditioning have another option that would reward them for powering up when other people aren't. 

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A company called Respond Power has entered the PPL service area as an electricity supplier, introducing a new approach to convince people to voluntarily alter their electricity usage and reward them with periodic rebate checks.

Respond Power does business throughout the state, but in the PPL service area where Smart Meters log customers' minute-by-minute energy use, it has unveiled its rewards program, combining a variable electricity rate with a peak use rebate offered in the form of a check every month or so.

People who select Respond Power as their provider receive emails or cellphone text messages daily, telling them the peak and off-peak hours the following day so that they can plan shifts in energy use. A recent email, for example, alerted customers that the rate would be unusually high between 2 and 3 p.m. and 9 to 10 p.m. According to www.papower switch.com, Respond Power's rate is 8.79 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is 5.9 percent lower than PPL's default rate of 9.27 cents per kilowatt hour. There are five other providers with lower rates than Respond Power, but company spokesman Mark Berger said customers who take full advantage of use shifting can shave as much as one-fourth or one-fifth off their bill in rebates.

"We already beat PPL's default rate," Mr. Berger said. "So this is an opportunity for someone willing to change how they use power."

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A customer can schedule off-peak hours to run appliances, wash clothes and dishes, charge electronic devices or watch TV, Mr. Berger said, adding that Respond Power found the rebate checks offer an additional incentive for consumers to conserve or shift more power use.

"Demand response" - getting people to shift power consumption from expensive, high-demand peak parts of the day to less expensive, low-demand hours of the day - has been a priority for conservation and power advocates of all stripes.

Since electricity was first wired to people's homes, they were billed a flat, around-the-clock rate for usage, usually in cents per kilowatt hour. However, the demand - and cost - for electricity changes dramatically throughout the day, with the cost of electricity highest on a hot summer day, for example, and much lower overnight. The conventional flat rate represents an average of the up-and-down costs throughout the day.

For the last several years, PPL has offered customers a voluntary program that offered seasonal tiered rates with below average off-peak rates, but above-average peak rates.

State Consumer Advocate Irwin "Sonny" Popowsky is encouraged that energy marketers are taking advantage of Smart Meters and likes the idea of not penalizing customers for using power at the wrong time.

"Peak-use rewards program are becoming more common and are a good way to reward customers for using power at the right time," Mr. Popowsky said.

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Respond Power is an affiliate of Orangeburg, N.Y.-based Major Energy Services. The company has customers in deregulated natural gas and electric markets of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

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