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Pioneer Community Energy Supports Customer Choice: Votes No on Time of Use Automatic Enrollment

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The Pioneer Community Energy Board (Pioneer) asserted its independence voting unanimously against forcing Pioneer’s residential customers onto time of use rate plans. The Board determined that Pioneer customers should make the choice for themselves.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) directed that all residential customers on flat rate plans be automatically enrolled into time of use (TOU) rate plans in an effort to shift electricity consumption away from the 4 pm to 9 pm period, when demand peaks and energy costs are higher. The cost of electricity will be higher from 4 pm to 9 pm than other times of day, like mid-day when solar power is more plentiful and less expensive. The CPUC believes the higher electricity costs from 4 pm to 9 pm will incentivize electricity users to changer their usage habits.

Customers will have the choice not to participate when the enrollment period starts (October 2021 for Pioneer), but they will need to inform the investor owned utility (PG&E) of that choice to avoid being placed on the TOU rate plan.

The CPUC did create exceptions to automatic enrollment like exempting California Alternative Energy Rates (CARE) customers in hot climates. In a decision on July 11, 2019, the CPUC also determined that Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs like Pioneer have the authority to choose whether to automatically enroll their flat rate plan residential customers into new TOU rate plans.

Analysis by PG&E of Pioneer’s customer base revealed that approximately 40,000 flat rate E-1 customers would be targets of the TOU transition (including NEM customers who are on the E-1 rate). The analysis also showed that 62% or 25,012 of those customers could see potentially significant bill increases on the default TOU rate plan based upon their current usage. The total impact could be approximately $655,734.

The analysis also showed that 15,277 Pioneer customers would benefit from being on the time-of-use plan. As the rate is already available, these customers could make the move immediately to the new rate plan. These customers could see a combined savings of approximately $334,358 without changing the way they consume electricity.

After significant discussion and consideration, the Pioneer Board determined that it would not participate and would let Pioneer customers choose for themselves.

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