Thursday, August 10, 2023

Powering ahead—for now

I recently received my first electricity bill from the company I switched to back in June, and the results were… surprising. Technically, the pricing was comparable but, without any savings. It could be that I made a mistake.

To be able to compare like for like, I took the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) I was billed for and then took the rate my former company charged to see approximately how much my bill would have been had I not switched. The result was a surprise: The subtotal I was billed was actually around $40 higher than the former company would’ve charged me. However, that amount was reduced by the credit for solar production (higher than the former company would’ve paid) and a special promotional credit for my solar power (that credit expires after 12 months). That and pre-purchasing power at a discounted rate meant he amount I was actually billed was lower than it would’ve been under the old company—technically.

The main reason my new bill was higher was because of what they call the “fixed charge” (also known as a “daily charge”), which is a fixed amount suppliers charge every day. My new provider charges me $2.45 per day, while the former company charged me a mere 90¢ per day (and that was an increase from the 60¢ per day they used to charge me). That’s charged every single day, even if I don’t use a single kWh of electricity (I sarcastically joke that it’s a charge for the privilege of buying power from a company, but it’s actually about maintaining the lines network—apparently). The fixed charge accounted for a third of what I was billed this month and—let me repeat this—it had absolutely nothing to do with my actual power consumption.

While I saved a bit of money by pre-purchasing power at a discounted rate, I felt it was a bit of a hassle—enough to save a few dollars a month? I’m not sure.

On the other hand, the fact that the new company has differential pricing based on time of day means I can plan to use electricity I have to purchase when it’s cheaper. Here’s an actual example: Yesterday, I washed my duvet cover set, and those things are always difficult to get dry—they turn into a ball, often swallow their pillow cases, and generally take extra time (and work) to get dried. I knew it would take a couple times through the dryer to get it fully dry, but there wouldn’t be enough sunshine hours left in the day to dry the duvet using solar power. So, I turned the dryer back on after 10pm, when the power dropped to the lowest charge, their “night rate”. That meant my dryer was cheaper to run than if I’d used it in the evening. Could it turn out that I save money as I get better at managing the power I buy? Maybe? And, do I really want to have to micromanage when I use what electrical devices? Probably not.

Also, the device that regulates the power sent to my hot water cylinder switches on at 6am every morning to use purchased electricity to heat up my water in case I want to take a shower before the solar power is available to heat the water (which is very important in winter because hot water may not be actually hot until late morning or early afternoon). This is also on the cheaper night rate, so that now costs me less than it did with the former company. It’s not enough saved to cancel out the higher fixed charges, but could that, and managing my power use for cheaper times of the day, help cut the amount of power I have to buy enough to make up for other charges? I’m not sure.

My winter power bills are always dramatically higher than in summer because I generate so much more power in the summer. So, looking at it over a year’s time, it could be that, averaged out over an entire year I might still save money—but, to be totally honest, I’m very sceptical that will be the case, especially when the promotional credit expires. This past month I purchased a somewhat smaller amount of power to what I bought this time last year, and the bill was higher. That’s not encouraging.

Even so, I’m going to stick with it for now to see how it goes. While it currently doesn’t appear to have been a good move to switch to this company, it’s certainly possible that things could even out. Still, I have questions, but, for now, I have a somewhat open mind about it all.

All things considered, I think the best idea is to resume researching my options, even as I watch what happens with the company I switched to. Clearly this story isn’t yet finished.

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