Time Of Use FAQs
When is ERTH Power switching consumers to TOU prices?
ERTH Power switched customers to Time of Use (TOU) prices on September 1, 2011.
What are Time of Use prices?
Time of Use prices (TOU), as the name implies, are electricity prices that vary based on the time of day, day of week (weekdays versus weekend), and by season (winter or summer). Moreover, Time of Use reflects the cost to produce electricity at different times. The price for electricity rises and falls over the course of the day and tends to drop overnight and on weekends based on the amount of supply available and our levels of demand. Time of Use prices are set by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and are subject to change twice a year in May and November.
Visit the opens in a new windowOntario Energy Board’s website for current pricing details.
What is a “Smart Meter”?
A smart meter is a meter that can record and automatically report electricity consumption information. In Ontario, smart meters will record electricity consumption on an hourly basis, and, typically, report that information via a wireless technology.
CONVENTIONAL (OLD ELECTROMECHANICAL) METERS: measure only the total electricity consumption from one reading to the next and they have to be read manually in order to report that information.
SMART METERS: measure how much electricity is used and when – and will automatically send that information to your utility, via wireless and other communications technologies.
With that information and an understanding that electricity prices can vary throughout the day – you will have a new way to manage costs. You might, for example, choose to reduce your electricity use during the higher rate periods (“on- and mid-peak”) and aim to shift some consumption to the “off-peak” hours when rates are lower.
Are smart meters safe? What about RF emissions?
With regard to exposure to electromagnetic frequencies, the Ontario government in partnership with local electricity distributors, has taken significant efforts to ensure that smart meters will not only help households manage their electricity consumption, but are also safe and reliable.
The government has established a regulation to outline the minimum standards for the smart meter system also referred to as the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). In this regulation, requirements have been included to ensure safety laws are adhered to:
For greater certainty, the AMI shall meet all applicable Laws that are necessary for the measurement of data and/or the transmission of data to and from the consumers within the Province of Ontario, including Laws applicable to metering, safety and telecommunications. As such, smart meters are well within the safety guidelines for exposure to radio frequencies established by Health Canada. these safety guidelines are outlined in the Limits of Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields in the Frequency Range from 3 KHZ to 300 GHZ, also known as Safety Code 6.
For more information about Safety Code 6, you may contact Health Canada at opens in a new firstname.lastname@example.org new email or visit their website on Smart Meters.
Why are consumers being switched to Time of Use prices?
Erie Thames Powerlines, together with all Ontario electricity distribution companies, is switching consumers to Time of Use pricing as part of the provincial government’s initiative to help promote a culture of conservation across Ontario. Between now and 2025, Ontario will need to replace approximately 80% of its electricity system because of its age. Building new electricity supply will be crucial – however so is energy conservation and demand management. Time of Use electricity pricing persuades consumers to shift electricity usage from on-peak to off-peak periods when possible, and thereby will reduce the strain on the electricity system, help the environment, and provide consumers with a new way of managing their electricity consumption and costs.
What is the difference between today’s electricity prices (Regulated Price Plan Two-Tiered Prices) and Regulated Price Plan (RPP) Time of Use pricing?
RPP two-tiered prices are based on averaging the more expensive (weekday daytime) and less expensive (night-time and weekend) prices of electricity. Time of Use (TOU) pricing better reflects what it costs to produce electricity at different times of the day and week. With Time of Use pricing, you have a way to help manage your electricity consumption (and costs), reduce the strain on the electricity system, and help the environment.
Why does “peak demand” matter so much?
When we are all using a lot of electricity at the same time, we create “peak demand” periods. Time of Use pricing is designed to encourage Ontarians to shift some of their peak demand electricity usage to cheaper mid-peak or off-peak times in order to smooth out peak demand periods. Supplying electricity at peak times has a range of impacts:
- It adds to our electricity costs, because higher demand leads to higher prices;
- It is hard on the environment because meeting the peaks may require the building of additional electricity generation plants;
- It adds to the amount of new generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure Ontario must build, which as a result consumers must pay for; and lastly,
- It puts a strain on our electricity system
- Wait for the weekend when possible. Electricity demand is lower on the weekends, and so are electricity prices. You can reduce your costs by waiting for the weekend to do energy intensive household tasks – such as using the cleaning function of your self-cleaning oven.
- Time for a timer. Put your chargers on a power bar with a timer set to turn on and shut down during off-peak hours, when prices are lower.
- If it’s not “on”, turn it off. Some electrical devices – computers, TV’s, audio equipment – draw electricity continually, even when they are not in use. You can cut electricity consumption by putting them on a power bar and switching the power bar off when they’re not being used.
- Look for the ENERGY STAR label. The next time when you purchase a new appliance, consider one with timer functions that will allow you to benefit from Time of Use prices – and always look for the ENERGY STAR label.
- Set the fan switch on your thermostat to “automatic” instead of “on” or “continuous” to save electricity;
- Shade central air conditioning outdoor units with trees or shrubs to use up to 10% less electricity (however make sure you don’t block the air flow around the unit);
- During the day, draw your blinds to block the warming effect of direct sunlight;
- Close the fireplace damper tightly to keep cooled air from leaking out; and
- Service your central air system annually
Shifting usage away from peak times to take advantage of lower rates for electricity will help reduce the strain on Ontario’s electricity system and improve the environment.
Won’t I pay more for my electricity under Regulated Price Plan (RPP) Time of Use prices relative to today’s RPP Two-Tiered prices?
Today’s RPP two-tiered prices are based on averaging the more expensive (weekday daytime) and less expensive (night-time and weekend) prices of electricity. Time of Use pricing more closely reflects what it costs to produce electricity at different times of the day and week.
Bill impacts from Time of Use prices depend on your electricity usage characteristics (both how much electricity you consume and when you consume it), and how much electricity usage you can choose to shift from on-peak to mid-peak or off-peak periods.
For consumers with the average provincial load profile (how much and when they consume electricity is the provincial average), there will be no or little impact on bills. This is due in part to the fact that there are over 3 times as many off-peak hours (108) as there are on-peak (30) in a given week. For example, for every hour your refrigerator is running on-peak, there are three off-peak hours when you’re paying less than the current tiered prices. In this way, Time of Use prices tend to off-set one another for equipment that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For consumers that use electricity primarily off-peak, there will be a decrease in electricity costs because they are using electricity when it is less costly to produce.
For consumers that use electricity primarily on-peak and do not shift consumption where possible, there will be upward pressure on electricity costs because they are using electricity when it is more costly to produce.
Why is it much more expensive to consume electricity during weekdays?
When everyone is using a lot of power at the same time a “peak demand” is created. Higher demand means higher electricity prices as more expensive types of generation are run to meet the demand. It can also mean importing electricity from more expensive jurisdictions on days when our own generation is not enough. Therefore, it makes sense for us to work collectively to reduce our usage at peak times to smooth out the peak.
What are the “holidays” that are included for off-peak pricing?
The days considered “holidays” for Time of Use pricing – the days when off-peak prices apply – are those days when a majority of Ontarians are absent from work. That’s because on those days the demand for electricity is much lower than on a “normal” weekday. View the list of this year’s holidays here.
How are TOU prices calculated?
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) sets prices for the Regulated Price Plan (RPP) Time of Use prices in May and November each year. Prices are based on the electricity supply cost forecast for the year ahead, and any adjustments required due to differences between what was paid and the actualy electricity supply costs for the previous period.
What if I have a contract with an energy retailer?
If you currently purchase electricity under a contract with a retailer, you will continue to follow the terms and price stated in your contract. If you would like to view your hourly energy consumption being reported via your smart meter, simply sign up for MyAccount. For more information about your energy options, opens in a new windowvisit the Ontario Energy Board website.
I don’t think these rates will work in my favour. Do I have another option?
Time of Use rates will fully replace the two-tiered rate system that Ontario utilities have been using for their residential and small business consumers. Electricity retailers may offer other types of pricing plans to consumers. Some consumers, particularly businesses, might also want to look into interval or hourly pricing options available through ERTH Power. For more information about your electricity options, please visit the Ontario Energy Board website.
How were Time of Use prices developed?
The current Time of Use pricing was arrived at following a multi-stakeholder working group process and then consultations with the public, consumer groups and industry participants. An independent consultant with expertise on electricity prices was also retained to advise the Ontario Energy Board.
My neighbours have been switched to TOU pricing, why have I not been switched?
As much as possible, ERTH Power tries to switch entire geographic areas to Time of Use prices at the same time. In some cases, individual consumers within the geography may not make the switch due to a range of factors (e.g. meter not yet installed, meter not yet communicating and tested, bill timing, etc.). Rest assured, your account will make the switch starting September 1, 2011 and you will be notified at least 30 days in advance of the switch through the mail.
I understand that I will be able to view my electricity usage over the Internet. When can I set up my account?
Once you have been notified in the mail that you’re making the switch to Time of Use prices you’ll be able to register to view your electricity consumption online through our customer login. Initially, you’ll be able to view a few weeks of your consumption information. As you accumulate your electricity usage information under Time of Use pricing, you’ll be able to access a growing history of your information.
I don’t have access to the Internet to view my electricity consumption online. What other options are available to me to learn about my electricity consumption patterns?
If you don’t have access to the Internet, simply call ERTH Power and we’ll provide you with a print out of your electricity usage or we’ll provide you with a toll-free number to call to get your usage information over the phone.
What are my best strategies to manage my electricity costs under Time of Use pricing?
First, focus on learning about your electricity consumption patterns by viewing your electricity consumption once you have been notified of your switch to Time of Use (TOU) pricing – you may be surprised at how much electricity you consume and when.
Second, focus on getting more efficient and conserving electricity across all TOU periods if possible.
Third, take action to shift your electricity use from on-peak to off-peak or mid-peak periods whenever possible. The most energy intensive appliances are those that heat or cool air or water – focus on shifting them first to help manage your costs, reduce strain on the electricity system, and help the environment. For example, when possible, do some of your laundry on weekends, shift dishwasher use to after 7:00 p.m., avoid running air conditioners from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays in the summer, or install a programmable thermostat for managing temperature in your home when you are at work or not at home.
What other tips could you provide to manage my costs, reduce strain on the electricity system, and help the environment with Time of Use prices?
There are a number of things you can do to help manage your costs under Time of Use prices:
please view the next 3 tips below.
If everyone shifts their electricity usage, won’t it just create a new peak period at another time?
Electricity demand in Ontario is roughly split between 1/3 industrial, 1/3 commercial, and 1/3 residential. Residential and small commercial consumers would not be able to shift enough electricity consumption to create an entirely new peak demand period however rather their shifting will “flatten” the existing peak period and move it to the “shoulder” periods; thus reducing the strain on the electricity system and reducing the negative environmental impacts of generating electricity during peak periods.
Where can I learn more about what it costs to operate different appliances under Time of Use prices?
To learn what it costs to operate different appliances during off, mid, and on-peak periods, opens in a new windowvisit “Kilowatt Way”.
Where can I learn more about what it costs to operate different appliances under Time of Use prices?
To learn what it costs to operate different appliances during off, mid, and on-peak periods, visit “Kilowatt Way”.
Where will all the meter data be stored?
The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) was engaged by the provincial government to build the Meter Data Management Repository (MDM/R) which receives and stores the hourly consumption information transmitted daily by each of Ontario’s over 90 local distribution companies.
Is my personal information secure?
Yes. Ontario’s electricity distribution companies are required, by law, to ensure that customer personal information is secure. Further, the only information that is transmitted by the smart metering system is customer meter number and electricity consumption – the same information that was previously available on the old meter located at your premise. Customer personal information is not associated with meter number until it is within ERTH Power secure Customer Information System.
I operate a business. Won’t these prices cost me more?
Bill impacts under Time of Use (TOU) prices are dependent on your electricity usage characteristics (both how much and when you use electricity). It is impossible to generalize what the bill impacts to business are given there are so many different types of businesses (e.g. retail outlet, dairy farm, restaurant, etc.). If you consume electricity primarily in on-peak and mid-peak periods during weekdays and have no opportunity to shift usage, there will be upward pressure on the electricity line item of your bill. However if your business has equipment that operates 24/7 (e.g., refrigeration, lighting, exhaust fans, etc.), electricity costs would tend to balance out relatively given that overnight and on weekends TOU prices are lower. When you’re notified of your switch to TOU prices, you will be able to become a more informed energy consumer by viewing your electricity consumption at opens in a new windowwww.erthpower.com. Additionally you will be provided information that will help you better understand bill impacts and various options of energy conservation. For example, you could consider ways to reduce your electricity consumption across all time periods by becoming more efficient. Visit our conservation section to find out more about energy efficient programs. You could also compare TOU pricing with other pricing options (e.g. a flat rate electricity contract with a retailer).
If I have a contract with an electricity retailer, will I make the switch to Time of Use prices?
No. Your electricity prices will be determined by the terms and conditions of the contract you have with your retailer. However, when your retail contract expires and if you choose not to enter into a new contract, the price of your electricity will be calculated using Time of Use (TOU) electricity prices. Even though you’re not moving to TOU prices now, you can still get real feedback about your electricity use. Simply set up an account at the Customer Login to securely view your electricity consumption by hour, by day, or by billing period.
I rely on electric heat and air conditioning and I believe that Time of Use prices will increase my bill significantly – what can I do about that?
Bill impacts associated with Time of Use (TOU) prices are dependent on when you use appliances and equipment. To the extent that appliances are operated 24 hours a day 7 days a week (e.g. electric heat), there should be minimal or no bill impact given that there are more off-peak than on-peak hours over a 7 day period. The actual breakdown of on-peak/mid-peak/off-peak hours is 30/30/108 in the winter and 30/30/108 respectively in the summer.
For equipment that is operated during peak hours (e.g. air conditioning during the afternoon on a hot summer day) the electricity price will be higher, reflecting the cost to produce electricity during peak times. In cases where consumers have a choice of when they operate appliances, (e.g. clothes washer, clothes dryer, dishwasher, etc.), they can reduce costs by shifting to off-peak periods.
Specifically in the case of where consumers both want to use their air conditioner and want to manage their costs, consider installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to cool your home in the early morning off-peak and mid-peak periods. Set it to increase the temperature during the afternoon on-peak period from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and use a fan to keep the air circulating.
Why can i no longer send in my meter readings when I make the switch to Time of Use pricing?
Once you make the switch to Time of Use (TOU) pricing, the cost for your electricity consumption (the electricity line item of your bill) will be based not only on how much electricity you consume, but also on when you use it (off-peak, mid-peak, on-peak). Given that your meter only displays your total electricity consumption, sending us your meter reading isn’t enough information to calculate your bill.