Visiting with a friend, along with climate change, politics and the latest movies, we were also discussing our electric bills. My bills, it seemed, were almost twice as much as her bills, even though we both live alone in roughly the same size house. Even though I had paid roughly the same amount since I bought my house 13 years ago, it got me thinking.
When I came home, I investigated my electric bill and I entered the twilight zone of California’s baseline system of tiered billing. Basically, the more electricity I use, the more it costs me per (kilowatt) hour. This is the “tiered” part. I understand that, and it does encourage conservation.
In order to conserve, though, there has to be a starting point, and this is the baseline. And I understand that.
They arrive at the baseline by “determining the CPUC for SCE’s average residential electricity consumption in nine geographical regions for southern and central California, for winter and summer seasons.”
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call “The Tiered Zone”.
I think that means they look at the consumption in 9 areas, average it out, figure out if it’s winter or summer, then set that as my baseline. And charge me 12 cents per kilowatt-hour used. The way I figure, if my neighbors in the surrounding 9 areas are heavy into consumption then my baseline is high. If they’re on a conservation kick, then my baseline is low. If it’s a hot winter and air condition use is high, then so too is my baseline. If it’s a mild summer and open windows are enough to keep one cool, the my baseline is low.
If I use more than the allotted baseline, I’m charged 14 cents per hour for that next bucket of kilowatt-hours, 24 cents for tier 3, 27 for tier 4, and a whopping 31 cents per kilowatt hour for tier 5.
Being the geek that I am, stranded in the island I call home, during a rare California deluge, I decided to chart my kilowatts hours used the past year. The only thing consistent is the inconsistency of the baseline and tiers.
In the past year did I find two consecutive months with the same baseline and tiers 2-5 buckets? Noooooo, I did not. I’ve only gone into tier 4 four times in the past year, but those hours cost me more than twice as much as the baseline!
Obviously, if I want to save money, I need to use less electricity and keep my kilowatt hours in the first and second tiers. And make sure the surrounding areas are NOT conserving.
It’s entirely possible to do all I can to use less electricity, and still have my bill be more expensive. All it takes is for the neighboring areas to conserve their usage, dropping the baseline bucket so it overflows faster into the higher costing tiers!
This sounds all so suspicious.
But, wanting to do my part, I did a few calculations and looked for ways to conserve. In addition to the normal stuff of making sure lights are off in rooms not used, I found a few changes I could make…That 2nd fridge in the garage? Unplugged. TV and components? Off each night. Light bulbs? Compact fluorescent in the high use fixtures. I guess I’ll give it 6 months or so and see how much it really helps.
Then I can worry about the other utilities.