Time-of-Use Rates and Smart Meter FAQ’s
What are time-of-use rates?
Time-of-use rates vary by hour, day and season – better reflecting the way electricity prices work in the electricity market.
Depending on our demand and the availability of supply, electricity market prices rise and fall over the day and tend to drop over night. That’s why time-of-use rates vary – depending on the time of day, the day of the week (week, weekend or holidays) and the season (summer or winter).
With rates that vary, we all have an incentive to shift and/or reduce electricity consumption at times of peak demand. Here are the time-of-use periods.
(May 1 – Oct 31)
Current rate information can be found at www.ontarioenergyboard.ca
How am I supposed to do my laundry at those times?
With time-of-use pricing for electricity, consumers have the choice to shift some of their usage to off-peak or mid-peak times. However, if they choose to make no changes to their routine at all, the cost of electricity they use over the course of a year will likely increase slightly. To see the impact of using other appliances at various times of the day, visit 10 Smart Meter Lane to try out the interactive calculator.
What holidays are designated off-peak?
Holidays include: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday (August), Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. In the event that New Year’s Day, Christmas Day or Boxing Day fall on a weekend, the next business day will be considered a holiday. Ex. If December 25 falls on a Sunday, since Boxing Day is already a holiday, you would pay holiday pricing (off-peak) on December 27, as it is the next business day.
Will my electricity bill automatically go down once I have a smart meter – and I’m on Time-Of-Use rates?
What time-of-use rates do is provide you with a new way to think about and manage electricity usage. Under time-of-use, there are different rates for the electricity you use during the on-peak, mid-peak and off-peak hours. So, it makes sense to aim, for example to schedule energy-intensive activities to the off-peaks (after 7 pm during the week, all weekends and on holidays). The more activities you manage to shift to off-peak or mid-peak hours, the better your chance of seeing savings on your bill.
Will my electricity bill go up?
That will depend, in part, on you.
When you are billed on a time-of-use basis, depending on how and when you use electricity, you may pay a bit more or less or see very little difference. With TOU, those who work to conserve and shift their usage to off-peak, weekends or holidays may benefit the most. Currently those customers see no price advantage no matter what time of the day they use power.
Time-of-use sounds complicated.
At first, you’ll need to be more aware of how and when you use energy, but over time, it will simply become a habit.
Smart Metering data will give you a tool and better information to help you make informed decisions about your electricity usage. With this information in hand, you’ll be able to develop the best strategies for you.
I don’t think these rates will work in my favour. Do I have another option?
Time-of-use rates replace the two-tiered rate system that Ontario utilities have been using for their residential and small business customers.
Business customers might also want to look into interval or hourly pricing options available.
Will I be disadvantaged by time-of-use prices because of the power I use during the day?
Other areas that have implemented TOU rates have shown that for most customers, if they do not change their consumption patterns, they pay about the same price or slightly higher for electricity than they did under the tiered pricing model.
This is due in part to the fact that there are many more off-peak hours than there are on-peak in a given week (all hours of the weekend are off-peak). In the summer for instance, for every hour of the week that your fridge is running on-peak, there are more off-peak hours when you’re paying significantly less than the current tiered rates.
Remember too that during a week, 64% of hours are off-peak hours.
In this way, the time-of-use prices tend to off-set one another so that customers are not penalized by this rate but are still given incentives to reduce or shift some of their discretionary consumption if they are able.
I run a home based business that’s open mostly in on-peak and mid-peak periods. Won’t these rates cost me more?
Many small businesses can reduce their electricity bill through conservation and improved energy efficiency. There are several saveONenergy programs available to specifically help businesses.
Where will all the smart meter data be stored?
An independent central meter data repository will store and process the hourly consumer consumption data transmitted daily by each of Ontario’s local distribution companies (LDCs).
With access to your information through the online billing site, you will be able to make informed choices about how to take advantage of this information in order to impact your consumption and costs.
Is my usage information secure and will it remain confidential?
Yes. Ontario’s electricity distribution companies are required, by law, to ensure that the smart meters and communication networks that are put into place are equipped with security features to prevent unauthorized access.
They must also comply with federal laws regarding the privacy, protection and disclosure of personal information. Any data that is sent to the central repository will be provided in such a way as to prevent identification of any individual customer.
If we are unable to get some/any readings for a billing period, will the customer’s bill be estimated for some/all of the consumption?
Smart meters eliminate the need for estimated bills since readings are submitted automatically daily. In the event that a reading was not received for some reason, this will be noted in our system and the next reading will be picked up. If there is a malfunction, we will be aware of this and can send out a service technician to rectify the problem quickly.
Conservation Strategies and Energy-Saving Tips
How can I “manage” my electricity use and costs?
There are lots of simple things that we can do to save electricity and reduce electricity costs.
Your best strategy might combine some or all of the following:
Shift some electricity use to off-peak periods.
- Under time-of-use rates, shifting activities that are energy intensive to the lower rate mid-peak and off-peak hours will be to your advantage.
- Reduce electricity use across all periods of the day.
- Conservation always makes good sense. This includes activities like turning off lights and equipment that are not in use, and turning your air conditioner up a few degrees.
- Ensure you’re not paying for nothing! Many electronic items – including computers, TVs and cell phone chargers – aren’t fully off unless you pull the plug, so try to plug them into a power bar that you can turn off.
- Opt for energy-efficient products, wherever you can. ENERGY STAR® appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use less power, reducing both your electricity consumption and your costs.
- Take advantage of conservation promotions.
- Alectra Utilities, in partnership with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), are creating programs that can help you conserve.
Smart meters and Ontario’s energy plan
Why is Ontario introducing smart meters and time-of-use rates?
Smart meters – along with a “time-of-use” electricity rate structure – help you manage your electricity usage, while helping Ontario to build a more efficient, more environmentally sound electricity system.
Between now and 2025, Ontario will replace about 80 per cent of its electricity system. There are several ways to do that:
- Building additional generating facilities.
- Refurbishing current facilities (where that makes economic sense), and
- Investing in conservation and energy management tools so that we require less new electricity generating capacity.
Why does our “peak demand” matter so much?
Supplying electricity at peak times (those times when we’re all using a lot of electricity) has a range of impacts:
- 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, dirtier forms of generation must be run or imported to meet them.
- It adds to the amount that Ontario needs to invest in the system because meeting the peaks means building more generating facilities and more transmission and distribution infrastructure – and that also adds to electricity costs.
Smart meters… The Basics
What is a “smart meter”?
- A smart meter is a digital meter than can record and automatically report electricity consumption information.
- In Ontario, our smart meters will record electricity consumption on an hourly basis, and typically report that information via a wireless technology.
- Conventional (our old electromechanical) meters only measure total electricity consumption from one reading to the next, and they have to be read manually in order to report that information.
- Smart meters measure how much electricity is used and when – and will automatically send that information to your local electricity distribution company, via wireless and other communications technologies.
- With that information and an understanding that electricity prices can vary throughout the day – you will have a new way to manage costs. You might, for example, choose to reduce your electricity use during the higher rate periods (“on-peak and mid-peak”) periods, and aim to shift some consumption to the “off-peak” hours when rates are lower.
Why is it important to know when electricity is used?
- Knowing when electricity is used allows for “time-of-use” electricity rates – and that will give you a new way to manage your electricity usage.
- Under the old system, there was very little incentive to manage our electricity use because electricity prices remained the same no matter what the time of day – simply because the meters couldn’t report when electricity is used.
- Time-of-use rates vary over the day – the highest rate will be in place during times of peak demand (when we tend to use a lot of electricity) and the lowest rate during the off-peak periods. With time-of-use rates, your choices about how and when you use electricity can have a positive impact on your costs.
What are the benefits of smart meters for me?
Here are some of the major benefits with time-of-use rates:
1. With a smart meter and time-of-use rates, you’ll be able to take advantage of two cost-cutting strategies. These include, reducing your electricity use during the higher rate (on-peak and mid-peak) periods and shifting your electricity use to lower rate (off-peak) periods.
2. You get timely feedback about your electricity consumption.
- Your electricity bills reflect the readings taken by your smart meter over the previous period.
- That means your bills are always up-to-date as possible.
- You are able to access your energy load profile online, including data as recent as the previous day.
Will I pay time-of-use rates if I am currently with a retailer?
Your electricity rates will be determined by the terms and conditions of the contract you chose to sign with a retailer.
Will I be able to see the time-of-use rates or my hourly consumption data on my meter?
No, time-of-use rates and consumption data do not appear on the meter.
Will someone still come to read my meter? Will I see any changes to my meter frequency or my bills?
Once the system is activated, your meter will be read automatically so no one will come to read your meter. You will continue to receive bills in exactly the same way you do now.
Can I still call in my meter reading?
Now that the smart meters are read remotely, there is no need for you to call in your meter reading.
If I do not have access to the Internet, how do I view my usage?
You will need to request a printed copy of your usage report, which will be mailed to you, using regular mail delivery.