Downstate Illinois Households Get Power Smart to Cut CostsFebruary 26, 2009
Households across Illinois are looking for ways to cut costs, and thousands of Ameren Illinois Utilities customers have found a new way save on electricity. Nearly 4,000 households have signed up for the Power Smart Pricing program, an hourly electricity pricing option offered by the Ameren Illinois Utilities. The program helps participants cut costs both by being smart about both how much electricity they use and when they use it. Since Power Smart Pricing launched in early 2007, participants have saved an average of 10 percent compared with what they would have paid on the standard fixed rate (based on billing results for May 2007 through December 2008).
Under the standard residential rate, electricity costs the same amount no matter what time of day customers use it. Power Smart Pricing is designed to benefit local households, the environment, and the electrical system by giving residential customers access to hourly, wholesale electricity prices. Hourly prices go up and down throughout the day along with demand for electricity. Most of the time, the hourly price is lower than the standard fixed rate. This means that by shifting some of their electricity usage to lower demand hours, customers can reduce their bills while they help to trim peak demand for electricity. This reduces the need to operate or build additional power plants, and reduces strain on the electrical infrastructure.
When customers enroll in Power Smart Pricing, the Ameren Illinois Utilities continue to deliver their power, respond to service calls and issue bills. Participants receive additional support from CNT Energy, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Illinois residents save energy and money. Power Smart Pricing participants can check hourly prices online or by phone. In addition, participants receive an e-mail or voicemail message in advance when prices are set to reach 13 cents per kWh or higher. Participant Mary Ann C. of Harrisburg says these tools make it easy to adjust to hourly electricity pricing.
“It is very simple to bookmark the website and check the next 24 hours to see when the rates are the lowest,” She says. “That being done, I just be sure to run the dishwasher, washer, and dryer during the cheapest times. Just being aware that rates change goes a long way toward being a more careful consumer,” she says.
CNT Energy Policy Director Anthony Star says, “Illinois is currently the only state where hourly electricity pricing is widely available to residential customers.” He says that as more utilities move to smart metering and smart grid technologies, “smart rates” such as the hourly rate used for Power Smart Pricing will become more common nationwide.