Friday, February 7, 2014

Emergency energy aid runs low: time-of-need, time-of-use, etc.

After dumping snow, sleet, and freezing rain on Midwestern states Tuesday, the latest winter storm is bringing another blast of cold to the Eastern Seaboard. The recent string of winter storms has sapped the home energy assistance funds used to aid low-income households with utility payments.
State agencies and nonprofits from Vermont to Iowa are struggling to keep up with a rising need for energy assistance as yet another winter storm rumbles across the United States.
...This year's early string of winter storms has sapped the home energy assistance funds used to aid low-income households with utility payments during peak heating or cooling periods. State and local officials are supplementing federal aid with emergency dollars of their own and calling on President Obama to increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the nation's primary source of home heating and cooling assistance.
By no means is this an issue confined to the states described in the full Christian Science Monitor article.

My local television station has reported on the scarce funding for home heating in the region, and Parker Gallant has written on the scarcity of funding for the Ontario Energy Board's Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).

I doubt those struggling to stay warm are anxious for a price plan that spike prices up during the very expensive market pricing hours, but ...

Small but enthusiastic band of users finds big savings in 'dynamic pricing' | E&E Publishing
Dynamic pricing refers to charging different electricity rates at different times of day to reflect varying costs. The concept is similar to other goods and services.
...the Brattle Group's Faruqui is among those who believe dynamic pricing can provide billions of dollars in benefits. He expects those benefits to increasingly be realized as smart grid infrastructure continues to roll out, eliminating remaining technological barriers, and consumers, utilities and regulators become more comfortable with the idea of variable rates, whether it's only during the weekdays of summer months or year-round.
And, he said, there are additional benefits to be realized, such as helping integrate more intermittent solar and wind power.
While real-time pricing plans offer the greatest rewards -- and risks...
Nice to see a variable pricing article that does note intermittent supply - if only briefly.

Prices can spike for a number of reasons, including a generator suddenly going offline, unexpectedly high demand, or supply issues in a region that you are connected to if they do something silly - like go "all in" on a natural gas bet without getting the infrastructure in place to supply enough fuel for both heating and electricity generation.

Real-time pricing (RTP) need not be a reflection of a singular system's ability to meet its demand; it can provide a service for consumers who wish to take the time to essentially act like negative generators (negawatts).
Which the dumbie's version of dynamic pricing, time-of-use (TOU), does not.

In other areas of the United States - just south of Ontario - at least one utility is applying to go the exact opposite route of dynamic pricing:
Some utilities, notably much of the rest of New York State, forecast the tariff needed to recover wholesale costs on a monthly basis. With the wholesale market for February at record highs, New York's Public Utility Commission has just granted one utility, National Grid, an emergency request to defer a substantial portion of the commodity costs to avoid "significant financial hardship” for customers.
With natural gas, rates are typically set by the utilities a month in advance, and any adjustment to reflect market gains or losses are added onto subsequent months. With insanely cold weather come insanely high gas prices, and while those prices may not be reflected on January utility bills, they will undoubtedly show up in February or March as the utilities trues-up their costs.
If more utilities follow the New York example and ask to defer some of those costs, the pain of high prices will simply be spread around and last until summer.  -The Polar Vortex Wreaks Havoc On Utility Bills
It's not likely many consumers would choose dynamic pricing in either RTP or TOU forms- and neither should be the only choice provided to consumers.

1 comment:

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