Friday, June 3, 2016

Saving Money with SmartRate and Surviving Smart Days in Comfort

Why Would Anyone Join the PG&E SmartRate Plan?

Customers on the SmartRate Plan can save money on their electricity rates on most summer days from June to September. Smart Days may be called for 15 of those summer days -- usually the hottest ones. Customers are notified by phone, email or text the day before a Smart Day so they know to reduce their usage between 2 and 7. SmartRate customers will pay a surcharge of $0.60/kWh in addition to the regular rate between the restricted hours on Smart Days. For all other hours and on normal days, they will receive a credit of $0.024 per kilowatt hour. That's how SmartRate customers can save money if they can reduce usage during the hours more expensive rates are in effect. 

Saving Money with SmartRate and Surviving Smart Days in Comfort
Bird Contemplating Electricity in its Own Way, © B. Radisavljevic

What is a Smart Day?

For those of you who do not get your electricity from PG&E, a Smart Day is a day when a customer who is enrolled in the SmartRate Plan needs to drastically reduce energy use between the hours of 2 and 7 pm. Smart Days are called when very hot days are expected. Yesterday was a Smart Day for me. Tomorrow is another Smart Day. There can only be fifteen Smart Days per year per household, but on those fifteen days enrollees need to change their electricity usage patterns to save money.

Is it Worth it to Enroll in the SmartRate Plan?

The answer to that depends upon when you use electricity. My life is somewhat flexible. My husband is usually gone for the afternoon hours, and I usually stick around  the house until I can't take the heat anymore and then leave for  cooler places so I don't have to turn on the air conditioning. There is usually no reason why we need to be home using energy during those hours. I can save money on my electric bill with this plan. Whether you can depends upon your lifestyle. 

What to Do on Smart Days

I cope with Smart Days in many different ways. The house usually stays cool enough to sit and read my Kindle with no lights on until very late in the afternoon. My Kindle Paperwhite 3G has its own light, and holds all the books I could want to read. It's compact enough to take anywhere I might want to go. I just make sure its completely charged the night before a Smart Day. 

I'm very sensitive to the heat, and I really need air conditioning when the temperature is in the triple digits. That's one reason many of PG&E's Smart Day Savers don't work for me, since many of them are outdoor activities like bike riding, sports, picnics in parks, or walking the dog. Some are more practical, such as going to the air-conditioned gym, eating out (which also eats up the Smart Day savings, as does going to a movie), or shopping, which I usually need to do anyway. 

On Smart Days I usually turn off every appliance except the refrigerator and freezer. I unplug many others. I turn off at least one of my desktop computers, and usually both. I unplug anything that's charging and turn the lights off. I do keep the forced air fan on to circulate the air so that it seems cooler than it is for as long as I stay home. It doesn't get too miserable to sit and read until very late in the afternoon. 

Saving Money with SmartRate and Surviving Smart Days in Comfort
Cheeseburger from J's Burgers
Yesterday I kept one computer on and used it until it got too hot for me inside . Then I packed my Kindle and its stand and took off for J's Burgers to fill my stomach. After I'd calmed my hunger pangs, I took off for the public library -- one of my favorite Smart Day retreats. It's cool, has comfortable chairs unless you sit too long, and has places to use your laptop if you need to. 

I read one of the books on my Kindle,  The Only Witness by Pamela Beason almost all the way through before I left the library. It was not your typical mystery. One of the main characters is Neema, a female gorilla, who is learning American Sign Language as part of a university project. She is the only witness to the abduction of an infant. That's all I will tell you. I enjoyed the book, even though it's not the most realistic one I've read. Just right for a hot day, though. I kept reading after I returned home. I couldn't go to bed until I finished it.  

Tomorrow I will employ a different strategy. It will include taking my computer in for repairs, shopping at Costco and Trader Joe's and, if there's time and I have the energy, hitting one of the beaches to take some photos. I'm hoping if Hubby comes home early like he did yesterday before restrictions were lifted, he won't turn on the TV and a light again. Naturally, today, with no restrictions, he got home after seven. That's a man for you. 

Saving Money with SmartRate and Surviving Smart Days in Comfort

Pros and Cons of the SmartRate Program


  • By cutting electricity usage on very hot days, it helps prevent black-outs and brown-outs. 
  • Members of the program can save money if they adhere to the guidelines.


  • Members only get notice of a Smart Day the day before, so planning ahead for entertaining at home can be difficult.
  • If unanticipated events happen in your life on Smart Days that involve using a lot of electricity or not being able to cut your usage, you will pay much more for your electricity than you would otherwise during the hours the rates go up. 
  • Sometimes you may have to cancel your plans. Example. I wanted to spend yesterday and tomorrow blogging at home on my computer. I have had to change those plans and my posts will be delayed. 
  • Smart Days can be scheduled for weekends and holidays when you may not want to restrict usage if you have guests.

Does your electricity supplier have a SmartRate plan or something similar? Have you enrolled in it? Why or why not? How would you spend your time if you had to reduce your electricity usage on hot afternoons?

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Saving Money with SmartRate and Surviving Smart Days in Comfort

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