Variable Electric Prices – Know the Risks. Use a Broker!

Variable Electric Rate

“I’m very angry,” said John Venti, a business owner in the Midstate.

Venti, is upset about his most recent electricity bill from Pennsylvania Gas and Electric. He typically paid between $2000 and $2500 for electricity through Met Ed.

This month? “Just under $8,000.”

John’s variable electric price with his competitive supplier jumped from eight cents to 28 cents per kilowatt hour.

“It was just complete shock,” Venti said. “I cried, just because there’s no way I can afford that.”

John is not alone.

We have heard horror story after horror story of business owners that contracted for variable price electricity contracts.  Many signed up for a six-cent rate but didn’t read the fine print about it being a variable rate. It jumped to 22 cents per kilowatt hour the second month.

When they originally signed up, the sales person promised a competitive rate within a few cents of the utility company’s rate.  Well, that was before the unusual weather we are experiencing.

The Public Utility Commission regulates power companies but has very little—pardon the pun—power to reign in variable supply rates. Variable electric prices make sense for a buyer who truly understands the risks and rewards.  But for small businesses, the risks can be catastrophic.

Use an experienced broker

This is just one more reason why it truly pays to contract your electricity through a reputable broker such as Better Cost Control.  By working with all the suppliers, we obtain the best prices and explain all the different contract details so you understand what you are doing.  We never advise small businesses to obtain variable price contracts. Since 2002, we have been helping businesses get the right electricity and gas supply contracts for their businesses.

To obtain a quotation on your business electricity or natural gas, contact us today!

A related story from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

 

Making Sense of the Present Electricity Market

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  • Regional issues are ruling the day, when it comes to understanding today’s electricity market– gas & power correlations remain critical, but we continue to see increased frequency of separation.  There are fundamental factors that are behind this trend:
    • Northeast basis – too much info on this to put in this blog posting, but the short-story is that the region is short gas pipeline capacity and this year’s cold temps and pipeline constraints have caused huge gas spikes to New England (several days in $20-30 range) and to a less extent New York Zone 6 (>$20).  Day-ahead power has moved with gas with some spikes near $200/MWh. This is impacting long-term prices.  Unfortunately, the pipeline constraints are unlikely to be resolved in the near-term.
    • ERCOT Resource Adequacy – this issue is also not going away as ERCOT is expected to remain below is target for reserve margins and the increased offer caps are not expected to resolve the problem.  So do not expect summer premiums to disappear and there will be ongoing discussion on solutions to the problem.  Regulatory news and summer price spikes will both impact forwards.
    • PJM Capacity –the wholesale energy prices in the market remain low, but capacity prices vary greatly within the ISO – rising for most of the West and falling for the East over the next 2 years with certain areaa having exceptional spikes (ATSI).  Note that we have updated capacity charts that clearly illustrate this trend.
    • California Cap & Trade & SONGS outage- ongoing strength in forwards as Cap & Trade has been implemented and there is still tremendous uncertainty regarding SONGS, which has been shut down for almost one year.
  • Customer message:  The overall message is straightforward, but may be difficult for customers to accept since many have had consistent year-over-year price declines since the peak of 2008.
    • Year-over-year declines in gas have stopped with 2012 likely being the bottom.
    • Rangebound gas behavior for the near-term with modestly higher prices possible for 2014.
      • It makes sense that natural gas futures are higher than a year ago, but below long-term averages.  And we expect this to continue.  So don’t count on another spring dip – it is very unlikely to see a repeat of April 2012.
    • Both upside and downside are limited by coal-to-gas, production economics, storage, etc.
    • Regional fundamentals are causing significant regional risks that must be considered.  If you only focus on natural gas, you are exposed to significant regional risks such as New England winter spikes and ERCOT summer spikes.
  • Regional issues may provide a better rationale for customers to contract their electricity now.

PPL Default Service Rates Will Fall on December 1, 2012

The Price to Compare for small commercial customers of PPL will fall on December 1.  The Price to Compare will be 10.206¢, a reduction from the previous price of 10.346¢.  These prices are only for the three month period December 2012 to February 2013.

Pennsylvania Electricity Competitive Shopping Statistics

Information from the PA PUC tells us what percentage of users have contracted their electricity supply:

Percentage of Commercial Customers Served By An Alternative Electricity Supplier:

Duquesne Light: 33.3%

MedEd: 19.2%

PECO: 39.4%

Penelec: 26.5%

Penn Power: 27.2%

PPL: 51.1%

UGI: 5.1%

West Penn Power: 21.3%

Percentage of Commercial KWH Electricity Load  Served By An Alternative Electricity Supplier:

Duquesne Light: 66.5%

MedEd: 51%

PECO: 57.1%

Penelec: 59%

Penn Power: 27.2%

PPL: 92.8%

UGI: 5.1%

West Penn Power: 21.3%

http://www.oca.state.pa.us/Industry/Electric/elecstats/Stats1011.pdf

Understanding Load Factor

What is Load Factor?

Load factor is an expression of how much energy was used in a time period, versus how much energy would have been used, if the power had been left on during a period of peak demand.  It is a useful indicator for
describing the consumption characteristics of electricity over a period of time. Customers whose facilities are metered for demand can readily determine the load factor for any given month. Facilities billed at highest peak demand during the billing period should avoid periods of increased demand whenever possible.

How to Calculate Load Factor

The load factor percentage is derived by dividing the total kilowatt-hours (kWh) consumed in a designated period by the product of the maximum demand in kilowatts (kW) and the number of hours in the period. In the example below, the monthly kWh consumption is 36,000 and the peak demand is 100 kW. There were 30 days in the billing period.

Load Factor = 36,000kWh/(100kW x 30 days x 24 hours/day

Load Factor = 36,000 kWh/72,000kWh

Load Factor = 50%

This load factor indicates the monthly energy consumption of 36,000 kWh used by the customer was 50% of the total energy available (72,000 kWh) for use at the 100 kW level.

Why is Load Factor Important?

Electricity Distribution Companies must meet the customers’ peak demand at all times. The demand rate structure automatically rewards customers for improving their load factor. Since load factor is an expression of how much energy was actually used compared to the peak demand, customers can use the same amount of electricity from one month to the next and still cause their average cost per kilowatt-hour to drop as much as 40% simply by reducing the peak demand. For instance, a 25% load factor in the summer would yield an average cost per kWh of 13.2 cents, while an 80% load factor would yield an average cost per kWh of 7.9 cents. Remember, this is comparing two months in which the customer used the same amount of electricity (kWh) with different peak demands.

How to Improve Load Factor

Lowering the facility’s peak demand is the primary step to improving load factor and will reduce the amount paid monthly for electricity.

To determine the potential for improving load factor, analyze billing records to identify the seasons during which the peak demand is the greatest. In general, the greatest demand for electricity occurs on hot days in the summer. While this implies that a large electric load is dedicated to space cooling, it is not necessarily true for every facility. It is always best to observe operations at the facility to determine what equipment may be causing the peak demand. Once the contributing equipment loads have been identified, determine what can be done to sequence or schedule events or processes in order to minimize the simultaneous operation of high wattage equipment.

With a variable index price, what is my price???

The market price charge equals the weighted average of the Real Time Locational Marginal Prices (“LMP”) for the zone you are located in for each calendar month. LMPs are hourly wholesale prices in dollars per megawatt-hour (MWh). Wholesale prices are converted to retail prices by adding distribution losses of 4.48% and dividing by 1000 to convert to dollars per kilowatt-hour (kWh).  To this number you add the “adder” that the electicity supplier charges.

If you are interested in source data for market price charges, you can access New England wholesale LMP data on the ISO-NE websiteVisit our resources page for links to the Independent System Operator (ISO) for your particular location:

At the destination page:

  • In Step 1, select “Load Zone.”
  • In Step 2, select your Load Zone.
  • In Step 3, select the start and end dates you wish to receive .
  • Click “Download CSV” (comma separated values) and save the file locally. You can open the file with any text editor or spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel.

In the data file, the LMP data can be found in the eighth column, which is labeled “Real Time LMP.” The twelfth column, labeled “Real Time Status“, indicates the Status of the real time pricing (“preliminary” or “final”). The monthly price will be calculated and posted after the end of each month, when all LMP data for the prior are final.  This is the number that will be used as the monthly LMP price.

Please note that a single query is limited to 45 days worth of data and that hourly pricing data is only available for the past 12 months.

Reliability Maintained Through the Heat Wave

ISO New England (ISO-NE) started taking emergency actions Friday under its Operating Procedure No 4 — titled “Action during a capacity deficiency”  — as a result of the high power demand triggered by the heat wave late last week.  That move and the associated warnings that went out triggered a slew of calls from reporters, the ISO’s press office told us. National news outlets carried the story Friday including at least one interview with an ISO press officer on a nationally syndicated radio show.

The first level of emergency response in the ISO’s rules is mostly notification requirements that offer no extra power or demand relief — except the step to “begin to allow the depletion of 30-minute reserve.” That one can deliver about 600 MW, said an appendix to OP4.

The next level can deliver about 550 MW, said the appendix, by dispatching “real-time demand resources in the amount and location required.” At 1:30 PM, the ISO implemented Action Three under OP4, requesting voluntary load curtailment of market participant facilities and office complexes.

PJM breaks record

PJM Thursday broke its August 2006 peak record by delivering 158,450 MW and started releasing alerts for Friday at 7:13 AM that day with a heavy load voltage schedule warning.  That was followed by 54 entries on
PJM’s emergency message webpage ending at 10:55 PM Friday, mostly “post contingency local load relief” warnings.  The purpose of those is to give advanced notice to a transmission owner of the potential for manual load dump
in their area only, explained the PJM website.

Other messages included “non-market post contingency local load relief” warnings, the same message but for non-market facilities.

PJM issued at 11:00 AM an emergency mandatory load management with short lead time for Baltimore Gas & Electric.  “Load reduction is expected to be fully implemented within one hour,” of the alert time, said the PJM website, “and should remain off for six hours unless released earlier by PJM.

Others of the 54 entries included NERC-mandated alerts and letting generation owners boost generation above the normal economic limit — for BG&E, Duquesne Light and Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G).

Alerts started back up just after midnight on Saturday with a hot weather alert for the entire RTO, warning the temperature was expected to hit 103°F later that day.  A “heavy load voltage schedule warning was issued
at 7:30 AM and by noon a 60 MW load relief warning was posted for an area of AEP.

The Maryland PSC reminded customers that utilities in the state are not allowed to disconnect service for non-payment during a heat wave.

BG&E, PPL respond

Customers of BG&E were told Friday that members of the firm’s PeakRewards emergency load management program that they were being phased down to the level they had agreed to — 50%, 75% or 100% demand reduction — although they all were cycled to 50% during a transition period, said the firm.

What did they get for that? Participating customers receive bill credits of up to $200 in the first year of participation and up to $100 for each subsequent year, regardless of whether the program is activated.

The program cut peak demand by about 500 MW, said BG&E.

Early figures showed the demand at PPL Electric Utilities (PPL) at 2 PM Friday reached 7,622 MW — breaking the firm’s all-time summer peak of 7,554 MW set Aug 1, 2006 and the all-time winter peak of 7,577 MW set on Feb 5, 2007.  The
firm kept the power on and cited attention to maintenance and inspection, the increasing investments in the grid plus system planning for that.  It plans to spend over $450 million in capital investments this year, mainly to upgrade and expand the grid and address aging infrastructure, the IOU said.

“Investing in reliability means we’re prepared for the hottest days of summer and the frigid cold of winter,” said Gregory Dudkin, senior VP of operations.

The mark set Friday was the sixth day this year peak demand topped 7,000 MW and four of those six days occurred last week.  The others two were June 6 (7,049 MW) and Jan 24 (7,365 MW).

Over the past 10 years, PPL’s average summer peak was 6,949 MW, so Friday’s peak was about 10% higher than the firm’s summer average.

PSE&G has outages

About 6,600 PSE&G customers were without power due to the weather, the New Jersey IOU reported late Saturday morning.  The unofficial peak during this heat wave for the firm was 10,883 MW, set Friday at
about 3:00 PM — shy of the all-time peak of 11,108 MW set in August 2006, said PSE&G.  The utility has additional crews on hand to respond to service interruptions as they occur.  PJM, the regional grid operator, has had adequate power supplies to meet the increased demand.

The utility asked customers to use power wisely and conserve when possible to help the environment and save money.  “Turn off everything you’re not using, including TVs and computers,” said the firm.  The message listed many other actions customers could take including turning air conditioners warmer, using ceiling fans among lots of others.

New York calls DR

Con Edison (ConEd) said Friday it broke its all-time record, reaching 13,189 MW at 4 PM that day, “eclipsing” the all-time record of 13,141 MW set Aug 2, 2006.

DR programs were credited with cutting peak demand by about 500 MW when 3.2 million customers “heeded calls to conserve power.” The utility “saluted” them “and credited them with a key assist in keeping the power flowing reliably.”

The IOU did experience scattered power outages and as of 7 PM Friday the firm had restored power to over 16,500 of the 24,000 customers affected since Thursday.

New York ISO (NYISO) reported Thursday’s peak at 33,454 MW between 4-5 PM, 485 MW below the all-time peak of 33,939 MW set in August 2006.  The peak Thursday was 2 MW above the 2010 peak of 33,452 MW set July 6.

NYISO activated DR programs in the “downstate” region to help manage load between 1-6 PM where over 800 MW of DR is enrolled in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.
DR was called statewide Friday where over 2,000 MW is available, said the ISO.

“While New York’s power system performed well and sufficient resources were available to meet the higher demand, it’s important for all electricity consumers to heed the conservation advice of their local utility,” NYISO CEO Stephen Whitley said.

Meanwhile, New York PSC Chairman Garry Brown Friday asked New Yorkers to conserve energy to help take stress off the power.  “It is critically important for consumers to reduce their energy use at this time.  Equally important is for our state’s residents to stay cool and stay hydrated as hot and humid weather continues to stay with us.  We must all work together to reduce unnecessary electricity usage during this heat wave.”

Wind keeps blowing

Cape Wind took the constrained power situation as an opportunity to point out its offshore wind power project could help supply clean power in such an event.  The wind farm “planned for Nantucket Sound would have been
running at its full capacity of 420 MW yesterday and today Cape Wind would be running above average in power production,” said the firm Friday, citing wind data gathered both days.

“People sometimes think about the ‘dog days’ of summer and wonder if wind turbines will help,” Communications Director Mark Rodgers said in a prepared statement.  The “data shows us that offshore in Nantucket Sound, those
hot summer afternoons tend to be quite windy.”

In average conditions, Cape Wind will meet about 75% of the electricity demand of Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, it added.

Pennsylvania Updates Latest Electricity Switching Statistics

If you are located in the state of Pennsylvania and have not yet switched to a competitive electricity, the following statistics may be of interest.  For most customers, the savings by switching to a competitive supplier are remarkable.  Don’t delay!

Percentage of Commercial Customers that Have Switched:

Duquesne: 32.7%

MetEd: 17.1%

PECO: 36.6%

Penn Power: 24.2%

PPL: 47.2%

UGI: 4.8%

West Penn Power: 19.4%

Have you switched?  Call us to learn more!

What are the different PPL commercial and industrial rates?

Demand – What is it? Businesses have electric meters that measure both demand for electricity in kilowatts (KW) and electricity use in kilowatt-hours (KWH). Demand is the amount of electricity your business requires at a given moment. All business customers have a demand component of their electric bill. The demand charge is based on your peak demand as measured over a 15-minute period. For our general service rates, demand charges make up 20 percent to 40 percent of a typical monthly bill. Your demand can be controlled through the use of technology. Since demand is such a high component of your electric bill, it is worth exploring these options

What is a kilowatt-hour?
A kilowatt-hour is a measure of electricity use equal to 1,000 watts used for one hour. The electric meter measures how many kilowatt-hours you use. Electricity use is one component of your electric bill.
What rates are available?
GS-1 – This rate schedule is for single-phase service at secondary voltage (208, 240 and 480 volts ).
GS-3 – This rate schedule is for three-phase service at secondary voltage (208, 240 and 480 volts ).
LP-4 – Requires electric service supplied from available lines of 12,000 volts to 69,000 volts or higher where the customer furnishes and maintains all transformers.
LP-5 – Requires electric service supplied from available lines of 69,000 volts or higher. The customer furnishes and maintains all transformers.
LP-6 – Rate LP-6 has a demand charge minimum of 10,000 kilowatts and requires electric service supplied from available lines of 69,000 volts or higher. The customer furnishes and maintains all transformers.