Time of use can be practiced by all members, no matter what meter you have
The July heat can be sweltering as temperatures continue to creep toward triple digits. That rise in temperature usually means a rise in electric bills as HVAC units flip from off to cool to keep homes comfortable.
There are ways to keep your bill more comfortable, too. It just takes a little effort and small steps to conserve energy throughout the day, no matter what type of meter or rate, and no matter what time of day.
FreeState has made significant investments to the distribution infrastructure to help the cooperative “beat the peak” during the summer months. Consumer-members served by the McLouth office have the option to participate in FreeState’s Time of Use Rate Program, but due to power suppliers it is not available to Topeka members. No matter what, you can still practice conservation during these peak times to help your household, and your cooperative, save money.
Peak Demand and Load Management
From June 1 to Sept. 30 demand-side management (DSM) is one way utilities can meet the electrical needs, or load, of their customers. Electrical generation, transmission and distribution systems must be built to deliver the entire amount of power required by a utility’s customers, even on days with extremely high demand. Utilities’ loads are continually growing. This can be attributed to people moving into the service territory, the increasing amount of energy used by consumer electronic devices and residential central air conditioning becoming more common.
Utilities have two main ways to meet this growth: build more generation, transmission and distribution or manage demand. DSM helps reduce power consumption, in turn reducing the need to generate additional electricity. In addition, to meet growing energy needs, many utilities conduct DSM because it’s a member-friendly practice in reducing energy costs.
Time of Use Rate
Due to power supplier contracts, the McLouth members are able to participate in a special rate designed for load management. Unfortunately, Topeka members won’t see that rate until the cooperative undergoes a cost-of-service study and that is costly.
“Different rate structures due to different power suppliers keep us from offering the time-of-use rate to our Topeka served members,” said Steve Foss, CEO. “Because we purchase power from two different suppliers, we aren’t able to just offer the rate.”
The time-of-use rate is designed to charge more per kilowatt-hour during peak times, when the most power is demanded by consumers, usually 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and less money per kilowatt-hour during nonpeak hours (all other times, holidays and weekends).
The way each district territory is billed from the supplier is also a factor in the way rates are designed. The Topeka district purchases power directly from Evergy, while the McLouth District purchases power from Kansas Electric Power Cooperatives (KEPCo).
“In order to maintain our current rates for the next few years, Topeka members will have to wait until our next rate evaluation,” said Chris Parr, assistant general manager.
“Until we get to the point of our next rate adjustment, we encourage our members to conserve energy when they can,” said Parr. “No matter what the rate is or cost per kilowatt-hour, using less energy overall will still save members money and help us keep our load manageable.”
All efforts to conserve on behalf of the consumer-member result in savings to everyone and helps the cooperative with load management especially from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays or “the peak demand” time.
Load Management Infrastructure
Significant investments in infrastructure by purchasing and installing two generators that were made specifically for load management. This infrastructure upgrade increased FreeState’s number of substation generators to four. These large generators help produce generating power during peak demand reducing the amount of energy the co-op has to purchase from suppliers. It’s an effort to save on wholesale power costs.
The McLouth District power supplier KEPCo, encourages load demand management, and due to supplier contracts all four generators are located in the McLouth District. The use of generators during peak demand is not as simple as flipping a switch. The equipment to run these massive machines is much more complex than backup generators often used at home. Before making the decision to invest, a financial analysis was completed to make certain the investment made sense for FreeState consumer-members.
“These are not used as backup power,” said Eric Wylie, FreeState’s engineering manager. “These generators are unable to serve enough load to work in that capacity.”
Instead, the generators transfer load.
“We use these generators when power is at a premium on peak demand days and that allows us to offset the purchase of power by generating our own,” Wylie said.
Peak Demand and Wholesale Billing
Typically, peak occurs during the hottest days of the year between 3 and 6 p.m. Why so late in the day? Because 4 p.m. is typically the hottest time of the day and air conditioning is the single highest demand for power.
There are multiple ways consumer-members can help save. Reduction in consumption is the easiest. Turn off nonessential equipment, set the air conditioner to a higher temperature, cook with slow cookers, or do laundry or run the dishwasher later in the evening.
Power suppliers bill FreeState for both the highest demand set during the month and our coincidental demand. Demand is the highest total kilowatt-hour used during a one-hour period, during the month. The coincidental demand is the demand we contributed when our wholesale power provider peaked during the month. When consumer-members create more demand by using more electricity during peak times, the co-op pays more for the electricity. Reduction of FreeState’s wholesale costs is the most significant way to help keep our costs low.
When consumer-members voluntarily conserve energy it reduces the amount of energy and demand FreeState needs to buy, especially during the day and on days when temperatures reach 90 and above.
Why Does Temperature Matter?
Residential consumer-members see the most fluctuation due to heating and cooling, but the winter months are not necessarily comparable to summer months because heating isn’t always electricity-driven. Consumer-members may use other heating sources, but most everyone uses electricity to cool their home.
If we have a mild summer, costs may remain lower, but if temperatures fluctuate, costs can change quite a bit. One option to help supplement the need for power is running FreeState’s generators.
“We can control the generators,” said Wylie. “We work closely with our power suppliers to determine peak days by monitoring temperature and forecasts.”
“We may pay for fuel to run generators, but overall the reduction we see pays for itself,” Wylie added.
FreeState’s engineering team strategically runs the available generators to make the most of this resource. It is a coordinated effort to make certain savings can be maximized.
Making the Effort
All consumer-members, regardless of rate, usage, and location can make an effort to conserve and reduce overall usage. There are many ways you can work to reduce your use, but the graphic shows the easiest ways you can participate — no matter the time, the day or the rate. The meter doesn’t matter, the effort does.