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SDG&E peak time rebates: Summer's best kept secret to save electricity

San Diego Gas & Electric’s new ReduceYourUse program is a no-risk, no-lose proposition for residential and small business customers.

So far few SDG&E customers seem aware of it — but hopefully word will spread quickly.

As demand for electricity surges this summer, there may be power shortages in southern California due to the indefinite closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant.

ReduceYourUse (probably not a name Apple would have picked) is SDG&E’s peak time rebate program. It provides rebates to customers who lower their electricity consumption during times of especially high system demand. Here’s how it works:

According to the program info, every customer with a smart meter — 99% of all SDG&E customers —  is automatically enrolled. If desired, customers can sign up to receive personal notifications a day in advance of designated ReduceYourUse days. These can be delivered by text message or e-mail.

On the designated days, participating customers should take steps to cut their electricity use between 11 am and 6 pm. SDG&E will then compare their actual usage during those hours to their “baseline,” and give them an energy bill credit which corresponds to this difference. (The baseline is what customers would otherwise have used and is calculated based on usage during previous days.)

Of course, customers only get this rebate if their actual energy use is lower than their baseline. But what if it’s higher, or unchanged? No harm, no foul — those customers will continue to pay their normal electricity price.

Rebates will be paid at 75¢ per kWh — roughly five times the typical rate currently paid by SDG&E residential customers. SDG&E’s residential rates range from 14¢ to 31¢ per kWh. A slight majority of residential usage is billed at the lowest (14¢) rate.

SDG&E estimates it will call about nine ReduceYourUse days this summer — but it might be a few more or less.

Hopefully SDG&E customers will be excited about this no-risk savings opportunity, which would also help avoid rolling blackouts, which could be caused by the San Onofre closure.

Only 1% of SDG&E’s 1.2 million residential and small business customers have signed up to receive ReduceYourUse alerts so far — but the program was just announced June 6. How many customers eventually sign up depends in part on how widely this program is promoted.

With summer rapidly approaching, it’s time to get the word out about this great way to save money and help avoid rolling blackouts in San Diego.