Puzzled About Time-of-Use Rates

CPUC imposes new rates on small businesses

Dear Consumer Advisor,
I recently heard from PG&E that my small business, a retail shop in Fresno, is going to be billed differently, on something called time-of-use rates. I’m not quite sure what that means, or why my rates are being changed.

Does this mean my bill is going to go up? I hope not, my business is struggling, and I really can’t afford higher electric bills.

Sincerely, Puzzled Purveyor


Dear Puzzled,

TURN was as puzzled as you when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) told PG&E to put small businesses on time-based rates. These rates are best for folks who don’t use electricity during the day- and that is not the case for most businesses. Not only did TURN protest vociferously, even PG&E urged the CPUC not to impose these rates on small business customers. But the Commission would not hear reason.

Now that you’re stuck, you’ll have to do what you can to adjust to the new rates structure. That means shifting as much of your usage to evenings and weekends as you can, and taking advantage of any rebates for more efficient lighting and refrigeration that will help you do that. Check PG&E’s website for details.

TURN strongly recommends that you monitor your bills, and usage, and contact PG&E, the CPUC or TURN if you see dramatic and sustained increases. You can send a complaint to the CPUC through www.turn.org.

Consumer Tip: Beware of heating and cooling costs when your business in open!

  • To avoid skyrocketing bills in hot weather, you’ll need to control your air-conditioner usage during peak afternoon hours. Consider a programmable thermostat, a more efficient air conditioner or fans.
  • Do you use electric space heating in winter? Space heaters are very inefficient, and now will be even more expensive. Check into rebates on better heating equipment, and be sure to calk and seal any leaks in your walls and windows.

Time-based rates are going to be a challenge for most businesses. If your business ends up being hurt by time-based rates, don’t hesitate to say so!