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Smart Meters and Time-of-Use Rates

Smart Meters and Time-of-Use (TOU) rates are two initiatives of the Ontario government. They help to promote conservation and reduce the peak demand for electricity. Peak demand occurs when we all use electricity at the same time. Unlike most commodities, electricity cannot be stored; it must be generated as it’s needed. The Ontario Energy Board wants to flatten out the peaks, to reduce the load on our distribution system during certain times of the day. TOU rates encourage people to shift their electricity use from higher-cost (peak) to lower-cost (off-peak) periods in the day whenever possible.
 
This shift:

  • reduces the strain on our electricity system,
  • helps the environment by reducing the need for coal-fired power,
  • defers the need for investment in new energy infrastructure, and
  • provides you with a new way of managing your electricity costs.

Like all electricity distributors in Ontario, Peterborough Utilities has begun switching its residential and small business customers to TOU electricity prices. The first step, now completed, was to install smart meters in our residential and small business customers’ locations. Smart meters record the time of day that electricity was used as well as how much was used.

Introducing Time of Use Rates - A Quick Guide
Introducing Time of Use Rates - A Quick Guide for Business
Time of Use Periods
Town Hall Meeting Presentation

To learn more about Time-of-Use prices, read the Time-of-Use FAQ, the Smart Meter FAQ or visit 10 Smart Meter Lane.

Time-of-Use FAQ's

Smart Meter FAQ's

What is Time-of-Use (TOU) pricing?

Time-of-Use prices are electricity prices that vary based on:

  • the time of day,
  • the day of the week (weekdays versus weekends),
  • the season (winter or summer).

TOU pricing reflects the cost to produce electricity at different times. Prices for electricity rise and fall over the course of each day and tend to drop overnight and on weekends, depending on the supply that is available and our levels of demand. In the past, we’ve paid one price based on an average of high and low prices. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) publishes current TOU rates. Current rates can also be found at 10 Smart Meter Lane

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What is the difference between today’s electricity prices: Regulated Price Plan/Two-Tiered (RPP TT) prices and Regulated Price Plan/Time-of-Use (RPP TOU) pricing?

RPP/Two-Tiered prices are calculated by averaging the more expensive (weekdays during the day) and less expensive (night-time and weekend) prices of electricity. Time-of-Use pricing better reflects what it actually costs to produce electricity at different times of the day and week.   

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Why are customers being switched to Time-of-Use pricing?

Peterborough Utilities, together with all electricity distributing companies across Ontario, is switching consumers to Time-of-Use pricing as part of the provincial government’s initiative to help promote energy conservation across Ontario. The province’s electricity infrastructure is aging.

Between now and 2025, Ontario will need to replace about 80 per cent of its electricity system. Building new electricity supply will be vital - but so is energy conservation and demand management. Time-of-Use electricity pricing encourages consumers to shift their electricity usage from on-peak to off-peak periods when possible. That reduces the strain on the electricity system, helps the environment, and provides customers with a new way of managing their electricity usage (and costs). 

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Why does “peak demand” matter so much?

 
Supplying electricity at peak times (when we’re all using a lot of electricity) has a range of effects:  

  • It adds to our electricity costs because higher demand often means higher market prices.
  • It’s hard on the environment because more of the less-attractive forms of generation must be used to meet them.
  • It adds to the amount of money Ontario needs to invest in the system because meeting the peaks means building even more new generating facilities, and more transmission and distribution infrastructure and that also adds to electricity costs.

So working together to reduce peak demand makes good sense.  

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What are the Time-of-Use periods and rates?

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has developed the Time-of-Use periods shown below:  

  • off-peak (shown in green), prices are lower
  • mid-peak (shown in yellow)
  • on-peak (shown in red), prices are higher

Ontario Energy Board (OEB) publishes current TOU rates. Current rates can also be found at 10 Smart Meter Lane.

TOU Times

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How are Time-of-Use rates calculated?

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) sets the Regulated Price Plan Time-of-Use (RPP-TOU) prices in May and November each year. Visit the website or to see current prices. Prices are based on the electricity supply cost forecast for the year ahead, and any adjustments required due to differences between what was paid and the actual electricity supply costs for the previous period.  

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Why is it so much more expensive to use electricity during weekdays?

When everyone is using a lot of power at the same time, it creates a “peak demand.” Higher demand means higher electricity prices as more expensive types of generation are run to meet the demand. It can also mean importing electricity from more expensive jurisdictions on days when our own generation is not enough. Therefore, it makes sense for us to work collectively to reduce our usage at peak times, to smooth out the peaks.  

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What are the “holidays” that are included for off-peak pricing?

The days considered holidays for Time-of-Use pricing – the days when off-peak prices apply – are those days when a majority of Ontarians are absent from work. That’s because on those days the demand for electricity is much lower than on a normal weekday. Visit the Ontario Energy Board site, OEB Holidays for a current listing of applicable holidays.  

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When will I move to Time-of-Use prices?

Consumers across Ontario, including customers of Peterborough Utilities, are making the transition to Time-of-Use rates now.

Switching your account to TOU pricing is dependent on many activities: 

  • installing and tuning the communication network that enables the meters to communicate;
  • connecting your meter with the provincial Meter Data Management Repository (the provincial data warehouse where all meter readings in the province are stored); and
  • switching your account in our billing system.

Once all of these activities are successfully completed, we’ll notify you directly via mail 30 days in advance of your switch to TOU pricing. We expect that the majority of our customers will be switched over by the summer of 2012.   

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How will Time-of-Use rates affect me?

Studies show that most customers’ bills will change by only a small percentage based on their current consumption patterns. Some will pay a bit less and some a bit more, depending on when they use electricity the most. In the long-run, reducing peak demand will save us all money. Right now the province has to maintain a number of power plants that only operate during peak periods, which is very expensive.

Peterborough Utilities is committed to making sure our residential and small business customers have the information they need to adjust to Time-of-Use rates. You will receive an information package in the mail before you transition to Time-of-Use.

Our online tools are designed to help you make decisions about shifting your consumption, conserving energy and controlling costs. These tools can be accessed through the customer self-service web portal, which gives you secure access to your consumption data, account balances, payment history, and e-billing. As of April 2012, you will also be able to view your electricity usage in hourly, daily and monthly increments on our website. 

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How will my bill look different once I’ve been switched over?

The electricity line on your bill will show the electricity you consumed in each of the three Time-of-Use periods: on-peak, mid-peak and off-peak. The comparison chart will show the average electricity you used per day in each of the Time-of-Use periods.  

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My neighbours have been switched to Time-of-Use pricing; why haven’t I been switched?

As much as possible, we try to switch entire geographic areas to Time-of-Use prices at the same time. In some cases, individual customers within a certain geographic area may not be switched due to a range of factors (for instance, the meter is not yet communicating or is still being tested, bill timing, etc.). You will be notified in advance of your move to Time-of-Use pricing through direct mail. 
 
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Can you expedite the process of switching me to Time-of-Use pricing?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to expedite your move to Time-of-Use pricing. 

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I understand that I will be able to view my electricity usage on the Internet. How do I do that? 
(COMING SOON)

As of April 2012, you’ll be able to view your electricity usage online at our customer self-service web portal.
Your smart metering data is displayed using technology created by Lowfoot Inc., a private Ontario company that has partnered with Peterborough Utilities to assist its users with their smart meter data needs in a secure and private environment.  

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I don’t have access to the Internet to view my electricity use online. What other options are available to me to learn about my electricity usage patterns?

If you don’t have access to the Internet you can call us at 705-748-6900 (Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and we will provide you with one free print-out of your electricity usage for the first month. After that, you can purchase monthly print-outs for $15 each to cover administrative costs. If you don’t have Internet access, your best bet might be to use a friend’s computer or use a public computer at the library. 

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What are my best strategies to manage my electricity costs under Time-of-Use pricing?

First, focus on learning about your electricity consumption patterns by viewing your electricity usage once you have been notified that you’re being switched to Time-of-Use pricing – you may be surprised at how much electricity you use and when.

Second, focus on getting more efficient and conserving electricity across all Time-of-Use periods if possible.

Third, take action to shift your electricity use from on-peak to off-peak or mid-peak periods when possible. The most energy intensive appliances are those that heat or cool air or water – focus on shifting them first to help manage your costs, reduce strain on the electricity system, and help the environment. For example, when possible, do some of your laundry on weekends, shift your dishwasher use to after 7 p.m., avoid running your air conditioner between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays in the summer, or install a programmable thermostat for managing the temperature in your home when you are not at home. 

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What other tips could you provide to manage my costs, reduce strain on the electricity system, and help the environment with Time-of-Use pricing?

There are a number of things you can do to help manage your costs under Time-of-Use pricing:

  • Wait for the weekend when possible
  • Electricity demand is lower on the weekends, and so are electricity prices. You can reduce your costs by waiting for the weekend to do energy-intensive household tasks such as using the cleaning function of your self-cleaning oven.
  • Time for a timer
  • Put your chargers on a power bar with a timer set to turn on and shut off during off-peak hours, when prices are lower.
  • If it’s not “on,” turn it off
  • Some electrical devices – computers, TVs, audio equipment – draw electricity continually, even when they’re not in use. You can cut electricity consumption by putting them on a power bar and switching the power bar off when they’re not being used.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label

Next time when you purchase a new appliance, consider one with timer functions that will allow you to benefit from Time-of-Use prices and always look for the ENERGY STAR® label.

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Where can I learn more about what it costs to operate different appliances under Time-of-Use pricing?

To learn what it costs to operate different appliances during off, mid and on-peak periods, visit 10 Smart Meter Lane. You’ll be able to compare the costs of running appliances at different times of the day and week. It’s a great way to learn about your own consumption patterns and how small changes can add up.

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I rely on electric heat and air conditioning and I believe that Time-of-Use prices will increase my bill significantly, what can I do about that?

Bill changes associated with Time-of-Use prices are dependent on when you use appliances and equipment. When appliances are operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week (for instance, electric heat), there should be minimal or no bill impact given that there are more off-peak than on-peak hours over a seven-day period. The actual breakdown of on-peak/mid-peak/off-peak hours is 30/30/108 in both summer and winter seasons. There are nearly three times as many hours at off-peak rates.
 
As a general rule, electric heating operates more often at night when the temperature drops. This is also when electricity is the cheapest. The cost of running cyclical appliances, like refrigerators, will average out on a weekly basis.
 
For equipment that is operated during peak hours (for instance, air conditioning during the afternoon on a hot summer day) the electricity price will be higher, reflecting the cost to produce electricity during peak times. In cases in which you can choose when you operate certain appliances, (for instance, your washer, dryer or dishwasher), you can reduce your electricity costs by shifting those activities to off-peak periods.

When you want to use both your air conditioner and you want to manage your costs, consider installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to cool your home in the early morning off-peak and mid-peak periods. Set it to increase the temperature during the afternoon on-peak period from 11 to 5 p.m. and use a fan to keep the air circulating.

In addition, consider the following air conditioning tips:

  • Set the fan switch on your thermostat to “automatic” instead of “on” or “continuous” to save electricity.
  • Shade central air conditioning outdoor units with trees or shrubs to use up to 10% less electricity (but make sure you don’t block the air flow around the unit).
  • During the day, draw your blinds to block the warming effect of direct sunlight.
  • Close the fireplace damper tightly to keep cooled air from leaking out.
  • Service your central air system annually.

Get more energy-saving tips at www.PDIconserves.ca.

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I am a senior/on a fixed income and I can’t shift my usage. How can you help me?

Peterborough Utilities is aware there are circumstances where consumers may find it very difficult to shift their consumption patterns in response to Time-of-Use (TOU) prices. Unfortunately, we are not responsible for setting electricity prices,  Time-of-Use prices are set by the Ontario Energy Board. Visit www.PDIconserves.ca to find out what you can do to reduce your energy consumption and manage costs.

There are programs you can take advantage of that will help you offset or better manage your energy costs. You may be eligible for the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit if you pay rent or property tax for a principal residence in Ontario (you could get up to $900 for 2010 to help with the sales tax you pay on energy, and qualifying seniors can get up to $1,025 for 2010). Visit the Ontario Ministry of Revenue website at www.rev.gov.on.ca for details.

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If everyone shifts their electricity usage, won’t it just create a peak period at another time?

Electricity demand in Ontario is roughly split between 1/3 industrial, 1/3 commercial, and 1/3 residential. Residential and small commercial customers would not be able to shift enough electricity usage to create an entirely new peak demand period but rather their shifting will “flatten” the existing peak period and move it to the “shoulder” periods. This would reduce the strain on the electricity system and reduce the negative environmental impacts of generating electricity during peak periods.

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Where will all the meter data be stored?

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) was hired by the provincial government to build the Meter Data Management Repository, which receives and stores the hourly consumption information transmitted daily by each of Ontario’s more than 80 local distribution companies.

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Is my personal information secure?

Yes. Ontario’s electricity distributors are required by law to ensure that smart meters and associated communication networks are equipped with security features to prevent unauthorized access. We must also comply with federal laws regarding the privacy, protection and disclosure of personal information.

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What price will I pay if I sign with an electricity retailer?

Consumers have the choice to either pay the regulated price set out by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) or sign a fixed price, multi-year contract with an electricity retailer. These organizations are independently licensed by the OEB and are not associated with the government or Peterborough Utilities in any way.

Most electricity retail contracts only include the cost for the electricity commodity (the electricity line on your bill). All other charges on your bill will still apply, and a new line will appear on your bill called the Global Adjustment. The Global Adjustment will be a charge or a credit depending on the market price of electricity. For more information about retailers and the global adjustment, please visit the OEB website,OEB/retailers

Your electricity prices will be determined by the terms and conditions of the contract you have with your retailer. However, when your retail contract expires and if you choose not to enter into a new contract, the price of your electricity will be calculated using Time-of-Use electricity prices.

Even if you have not yet moved to Time-of-Use prices, you can still get real feedback about your electricity use. Simply log in to our customer self-service web portal to securely view your electricity use by hour, by day, or by billing period.


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What other service changes will being made by Peterborough Utilities when I am switched to Time-of-Use pricing?

When you’re notified by mail of your switch to Time-of-Use pricing, there are a number of service improvements and changes that will take effect:  

  • You can set up an account on our customer self-service web portal to securely view your electricity use by hour, by day, or by billing period.
  • Whatever your bill payment schedule (with the exception of budget billing), all of your bills will be based on your actual usage for the billing period under normal conditions.
  • You will no longer be able to send us your meter readings manually.


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Why can't I send in my meter readings when I am switched to Time-of-Use pricing?

Once you make the switch to Time-of-Use pricing, the cost for your electricity use (the electricity line item on your bill) will be based not only on how much electricity you use, but also on when you use it. Given that your meter only displays your total electricity consumption, your meter reading isn’t enough information to for us calculate your bill.

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What is a Smart Meter?

meter

A Smart Meter monitors and records how much electricity you use and when you use it. It then communicates this data wirelessly to a central computer. The data is then used to calculate your bill.
Smart Meters:

  • look like standard digital meters;
  • measure electricity consumption data in short time periods, usually hourly, and store this information;
  • communicate electricity consumption data automatically to a central computer; and
  • do not control or automate any customer equipment or electricity usage patterns.


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Why do we need Smart Meters?

We need Smart Meters to record the time of day, as well as the amount, of electricity we’re using. Conventional meters do not do this. This allows Peterborough Utilities to bill customers based on Time-of-Use rates that encourage users to move their consumption to off-peak, lower demand and less expensive times of day.
 
It’s estimated that over the next 20 years, Ontario will need to refurbish, rebuild, replace, or conserve 25,000 megawatts (MW) worth of generating capacity – more than 80% of Ontario’s current electricity generating capacity – at an estimated cost of $70 billion. Producing more electricity is only part of the answer.
 
Conservation and demand management will help us make the best use of our existing electricity resources and slow our growth in demand. There are tremendous opportunities to reduce the supply-demand gap through the wise use of electricity. Smart Meters together with Time-of-Use pricing will help encourage us all to think about how and when we use electricity.

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What are the cost savings and environmental benefits of Smart Meters?

The benefit of Smart Meters is that they allow for the billing of electricity at Time-of-Use rates. Time-of-Use (TOU) rates encourage the use of electricity at times of lower demand, when customers can pay less for their electricity. When we’re all using a lot of electricity at the same time, we create “peak demand” periods. Supplying electricity at those times has a range of effects. Higher demand often means higher prices because having generating plants that stand ready to meet peak demand and only operate infrequently is expensive. These plants are usually the less attractive forms of generation that are harder on the environment.

By smoothing out the peaks in demand, we can reduce the amount of money that Ontario needs to invest in additional power generating plants, transmission lines, and distribution facilities.

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How is the cost of the Smart Meter recovered?

The cost of the initiative will be recovered through the electricity rates paid by all customers, in the same way that all costs for our services are recovered (through the delivery charge). The delivery charge covers the costs associated with building, maintaining and operating the provincial and local electricity systems. A portion of these charges is fixed and does not change from month to month. The rest is variable and increases or decreases depending on the amount of electricity that customers use.

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Will I see a separate Smart Meter charge on my bill?

No. The cost of Smart Metering is included in the delivery line item of your bill. Smart Metering costs are recovered through electricity rates in the same way costs are recovered for other equipment that serves our customers, including distribution wires, poles and transformers.

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Will my electricity bill automatically go down once I have a Smart Meter?

No. Your Smart Meter is a tool that measures and records how much electricity you use at different times of the day. When teamed with Time-of-Use pricing, it provides you with the opportunity to better manage your electricity use (and costs), reduce strain on the electricity system, and help the environment. See Time-of-Use FAQ.

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How do I know that my Smart Meter is accurate?

We are confident that our meters are both accurate and dependable. Smart Meters essentially consist of two components: 1) a solid state electricity meter that the electricity industry has been successfully using for more than a decade; and 2) a radio that enables the meter to communicate wirelessly.

The meters meet more stringent accuracy standards than the old conventional meters and are approved by Measurement Canada, tested by the manufacturers before they leave their facilities, and further sample tested by Peterborough Utilities before they are deployed.

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Since my usage data will be sent automatically, will it remain secure and confidential?

Yes, Ontario’s electricity distributors are required by law to ensure that Smart Meters and associated communication networks are equipped with security features to prevent unauthorized access. We must also comply with federal laws regarding the privacy, protection and disclosure of personal information.

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Can Peterborough Utilities access my property to change the meter?

Yes, Peterborough Utilities may enter a customer’s property at any time to replace the meter. This authority is granted under the Electricity Act (section 40) and in our Conditions of Service.

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I understand that Smart Meters use radio-frequency (RF) communication. Is this safe?

Yes. Peterborough Utilities’ Smart Metering system uses low power radio-frequency (RF) transmitters to communicate meter readings and weak RF fields in the range of 2.4 GHz are produced during the system’s normal operation. These fields comply with Health Canada guidelines by a very wide margin, ranging from hundreds to thousands times less than Health Canada limits.

RF exposure of most individuals will be predominated by other RF sources in the home such as cordless phones, wireless routers, and microwave ovens. For instance, CBS News reported that, “Smart Meters emit well less than one per cent of the radiation emitted by cell phones.” That quote was from Dr. Harry Chen of the Vermont Department of Health.

In Dec. 2011, Health Canada published a report that, “exposure to RF energy from Smart Meters does not pose a public health risk.”

A recent study by the Vermont Department of Health supports Health Canada’s findings that RF emissions from Smart Meters are not a health concern. Similar supportive studies have been published many organizations including the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science, the Maine Center for Disease Prevention, the California Council on Science and Technology, the Monterey County Health Department and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).

For more information about RF fields and your health, visit Health Canada’s website

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