Get Ready, Innisfil, for Time-of-Use Metering

God bless Innisfil Public Library! They keep coming up with something new for me to borrow. The latest borrowed item wasn’t a book but something called a  “Kill-a-Watt Appliance Monitor”. It’s a small plug-in metering device that lets you see how much electric power is being used by various devices and appliances in your home. I was interested to try it out because Time-of-Use electric metering is coming soon – like May June – and will appear on our electric bills in June July. [Update: the start is being postponed a month so that Innisfil Hydro can provide a 30 day written notice to customers.]

Yup. After all the wailing lately about a user-pay garbage system, which won’t be implemented for another year, brace yourself now for some serious outrage (especially if you’re a local politician). I think we’ll need ear plugs for this one. My household appliances are mostly fuelled with natural gas. There’s no artificial air conditioning, just nature’s tall trees. My hydro bill is very minimal so I expect a jump in the cost when the bill goes to time of use. That’s because I’m guessing there’s very little power use that can be reduced or shifted to off-peak hours. The only saving grace is that in June we’re outside barbecuing, lights don’t come on until much later, we watch less TV than in winter.

I went around the house, plugging things like the refrigerator, chest freezer, computer, TV and radio into the Kill-a-Watt meter. It has a display screen that shows how long the item has been connected and how much power, in kilowatt-hours, has been used in that time. From these figures, you can calculate how much electricity each device uses in a year, and how much that is costing you. The longer that you leave an appliance plugged in to the meter, the more accurate your ‘average’ cost calculation will be. The accompanying booklet recommends a cost of 13.5¢ for calculations, which is supposed to include “all other” charges.

My metering was fairly casual, and may not be all that accurate. But there were few surprises. (The annual cost of my fridge is only about $20.00 more than the annual cost of using the TV). The biggest power users (that I could test) were the freezer and the refrigerator. Everything that I tested combined added up to about 35% of my total hydro bill. So apparently the bulk of my household energy use comes from the water heater pump and furnace pump, and washing machine. Aside from the last one, these run on ‘automatic pilot’.  Not much opportunity for time shifting there. To be fair, some people may be able to reduce power use, if appliances are old or if you’re not using a set-back thermostat yet.

What are the implications in Innisfil? Peak rate hours are from 7 to 11 in the morning and from 5 to 7 pm in the evening. Considering that most people commute outside Innisfil, the time of use schedule shouldn’t have that much impact. The roads are busy at 6:00 a.m. or earlier and people don’t return home until 12 hours later.

The real benefit of time of use meters is that, as I understand it, it allows two-way metering of power for the micro-FIT (Feed-In Tariff) program. I think that creating your own renewable power is the only way anyone will be able to manage power costs.  When people realize that, there will be a rush to the exits. Time of Use billing will have some significant long-term effects:

  • Those renewable energy renovation grants will look very attractive, especially to commercial property owners
  • If you’re a vendor of renewable energy systems, times couldn’t be better
  • If you’re a home owner or home buyer, a south facing roof is a major asset
  • If you’re renting, you’ll want a building with superior insulation, solar hot water, passive solar design and other similar features
  • If you’re a builder, shouldn’t super insulation, a solar hot water system or solar panel be part of the design?
  • If you’re a landlord, you can offer competitive rental rates and attract tenants with lower utility costs by installing renewable energy systems

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