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I am considering enrolling in the ComEd (Illinois power provider) plan for real time electricity pricing. web site

What are the pro's and con's of such plans?

I would be really interested in hearing from someone who has used such a pricing plan.

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    I personally trust ComEd only slightly more than Washington... so not at all. I like the idea but for some reason feel like it will go south as soon as the Retailers realize they are not getting as much money because people actually start saving electricity when they are not home. – user4127 Mar 21 '12 at 19:10
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This question can simply be answered with "it depends", but I am sure that is not the answer you want. So here is all of the reasons why it depends...

The philosophy behind real time energy pricing is that you pay for what it actually costs for the energy to be produced. Peak times costs the power company a lot of money to produce the power. There are many reasons for this, but the simplest reason is that at some point the company will have to build extra power plants in order to be able to provide for the peak demand, while these plants will be widely underused during off-peak times.

In the traditional flat rate charge per killowatt billing, you had to be charged higher then it actually costs during the off-peak hours in order for the power company to make sure they brought in enough money to cover the costs of the peak hours.

Technology has now advanced enough that power company can charge you more directly of what it actually costs them. Potentially this could mean that you would pay more in electricity. This can happen if you are a person who loves to use energy during peak hours. Do you like turning on all of your lights when you get home from work in the summer? What about watching TV? Or what about cooking dinner? Or what about turning the AC down colder to overcome the heat produced by cooking dinner? All of those things that you might be used to doing are actually costing the power company more money because they have to plan for those higher peak loads. You can save yourself money if you are willing to shift your usage to other times of day, such as cook later in the evening or decide to grill outside, or wait to watch your TV show until later in the evening.

If you are someone who is stuck in your ways and doesn't want to adjust the time of day that you do certain things, doing real time pricing may end up costing you more. Some people could argue that it actually should cost you more. Why should someone who is saving the power company money have to pay extra for someone who is costing the power company more money?

All of this is viewed from the short term though. You may save some money here or there, or you may end up paying a little extra here or there, but I truly believe that in the long run everything will equalize out such that you will be paying the same anyways, or at least a small enough difference I wouldn't worry about it. If you stick with the flat rate pricing, they are already have to factor in you being a peak rate user when you might not actually be one.

In short, if you are willing to adjust your habits, I will almost promise you that you will save money. If you don't want to change and especially like to use energy during Summer afternoons, you might want to just stay where you are at.

  • Thanks for the response. I guess one thing that concerns me is that I can't make a direct comparison with the cost on my current utility bill with the costs shown on thewattspot. My current bill has other charges built in that they don't break out. The besh price doesn't have those included. It is frustrating. That is why I was hoping to get some feedback from someone who has signed up for something similar. – Pablitorun Mar 22 '12 at 13:18
  • There are things such as this product that will let you see your real time energy usage on your own. Problem is that paying for something like that would take awhile to pay off and possible savings you might get by finding out what it tells you. I believe any savings you will see will be purely based off of your habits. I know for me, I am a lot more aware of my energy usages now because of how we are being billed. As a result we are saving money. I probably could have done the same thing on traditional billing as well. – Kellenjb Mar 22 '12 at 13:30
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Pro's

  • Right now your electricity is charged based on how ComEd projects you to have used it. So you probably get charged for daytime electricity that you are actually using at night. At night the demand is lower so the cost of electricity is lower.

  • ComEd will be able to better predict usage and plan outages/maintenance during times that are of lower impact. (Less inconvient outages for you)

  • ComEd will better be able to see spikes in usage that trip and cause black and brown outs. This will allow them to make adjustments to reduce the impacts of these and possibly avoid some altogether. (Less chance of having to deal with hours of stifling heat with no AC or fan)

  • ComEd will be able to invest in equipment to more accurately meet their needs instead of trying to guess what it needs. This should make your power more reliable, and cost less.

  • This technology has just started to be exploited. I look for this to be like the cell phone. New devices that will leverage the technology could revolutionize your home.

CONS

  • Companies do not like to surrender revenue. Look for an increase in cost for lower peak times (if they can get it through CUB)

  • Quite a bit can be deducted from your energy use at the level they will report at. In addition this technology has potential to be like a cell phone added ability to help and to collect information.

  • It is not well tested in wide distribution. There are quite a few unknown risks.

  • I think the first bullet in pros in the only pro that matters here. The others can be done even if you don't enroll in the real time program. Many power companies are installing the smart meters regardless of it you are enrolled in the billing program. The cons are the same way also, they can still install a smart meter at your house even if you don't enroll in the program. Unless there is some state law or something that prevents them from this. I also don't buy into the fact that the power company is surrendering revenue, rather they are just adjusting how the revenue is obtained/structured. – Kellenjb Mar 21 '12 at 21:13
  • @Kellenjb - If you are paying less for your electricity then they are surrendering revenue. They will look at people paying more as new revenue and those paying less as reduced revenue. They will want to keep their new and get back the reduced. Its the nature of business. Eventually you will probably get a smart meter. But the question is do you want to be one of the ones they roll out first. That is where the cons come into play. – user4127 Mar 22 '12 at 12:53
  • If you are paying less for energy then it is a result of them saving money because you are save them from peak energy use. So I suppose revenue isn't the word I should have used, rather I should have said profit. – Kellenjb Mar 22 '12 at 13:02
  • @Kellenjb - Chances are they are currently charging you for peak energy you are actually using at non peak times. So that is profit they are "giving up." I am not saying they are entitled to it but they were getting it and now they wont be. – user4127 Mar 22 '12 at 13:16
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The site you link to suggests the majority save on this plan. AC is tough, but most other power hogs are in your control, washer/drier, dish washer, etc. This is part of a bigger picture of power transmission, and management. The utility cost is the highest for peak demand, i.e. they need to have capacity for the peak use, but only selling average use, on average. This billing plan matches what you pay with the true cost, and you save by avoiding the peak times.

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