The old saying goes that knowledge is power. For those who – like me – are interested in knowing more about their energy use, Southern California Edison (SCE) is now providing online electronic energy data that allows you to monitor your household's energy use, track monthly energy costs, and sign up for incentive programs to reduce energy use.
All of these programs are made possible by the SmartConnect digital meter that gives 24/7 access to your home's electricity information by the hour, day or month. I recently received notification in the mail of this new program and immediately went online to check it out. Here is what I found, and why I'm excited about having real-time data to help my household manage its energy use.
The first step is to either access your existing online account, or create one. To do this, you will need your 10 digit SCE account code (found in the upper right corner of your bill, above your address) and your zip code to get started at www.sce.com.
When I logged into my online account, what impressed me most was the depth of information available. For example, the picture below is a screen shot of my account for Sunday, November 11. This picture tells exactly when my family has been using energy, though it's up to us to figure out what the highest offenders are. I know that I started a load of laundry and used my hair dryer between 8 and 9 a.m., and here we see a corresponding spike. With that knowledge, I can start to investigate ways to lower electricity use, and the corresponding bill.
Importantly, I can manage my energy use for environmental and economic gain. Electricity is at its most expensive and most polluting on hot summer days when the electric utilities must rely on "peaker power plants" that are only turned on when electricity use "peaks" or hits very high levels. Using the Savings Tips tab, I can sign up for incentives, notifications, and discount plans that let me know when we need to reduce electricity use to avoid starting up these plants.
Through the voluntary Save Power Day Incentives, if I am able to reduce electricity use, I can get bill credits. It is important to note that if my electricity use increases during these periods I will be charged more. This program may not work for everyone, like those who work from home, but most of us should be able to reduce energy use a few days a year by simply putting off laundry, turning down the air conditioner, or turning off electronic appliances. Again, reducing energy use just a bit can have a big impact on cost of electricity and pollution levels because the utilities won't have to start up those expensive, polluting peaker plants.
Another tool under the My Account tab is called "Understanding My Bill." Most residents pay for electricity based on the amount we use. The more we use, the more we pay. This is called a tiered system. The first tier guarantees low rates for basic necessities like lighting, cooking, heating and refrigeration. Subsequent tiers (there are five total) have incremental rate increases. The goal is to incentivize us to use less. This is a screen shot of where my electricity use fell in the tier structure for last month. My house is around 1,000 square feet and is very energy efficient, so even with three people, all of the electricity use falls within the first tier -- meaning I pay only $0.13 per kilowatt hour (kWh). But as you can see, if I were to use more energy, I could be paying upwards of $0.32/kWh, almost three times the amount for the same unit of energy! Next year this amount will be even higher as SCE was just approved for a rate increase.
By setting a notification for when electricity costs start creeping into the top tiers, I can take an active role in reducing my electricity bill. (Note, that as homeowners reach Tier 3 and higher, solar electricity becomes cost effective immediately – but that's for another blog post.)
SCE has finally equipped its customers with the information and options that we need to better manage our electricity use. Smart Meters may not appeal to everyone, but as for me, I'm happy to have a tool that helps both my pocketbook and the environment.
More information from SCE can be found at www.SCESmartConnect.com or 1-877-287-2140.