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LA QUINTA — In an attempt to preempt skyrocketing summer electric rates for the third consecutive summer, the Imperial Irrigation District held a special hearing to educate electrical consumers of Time of Use (TOU) Tuesday, Jan. 11.

The concept was presented by Belen Valenzuela, IID chief financial officer, and Tony Georgis, New Gen Strategies and Solutions. NewGen was awarded the contract to perform a retail electric and wholesale transmission cost-of-service study and rate design tailored to the IID.

Georgis said in 2020, 43 percent of municipal utilities implemented TOU to help reduce costs to customers and utilities.

“Electricity costs vary during the day and according to the season,” Georgis said. “Pricing signals sift consumers from using electricity from one period to another, from peak usage to non-peak times.”

Reducing peak consumption reduces the need for the IID to purchase power at higher rates, reduces stress on the infrastructure, and reduces the need to build generation plant construction. 

Showing charts, Georgis said starting about 3 p.m., the residential usage begins to rise as children return from school and rises further around 5 p.m. as parents come home. 

“They come home, plug in their electric vehicle, get dinner going, the TV comes on, and laundry loads begin,” Georgis explained. “In the summer, the air conditioning is cooling the house from plus 100 degrees.”

Those with solar panels have basically been off the grid, but as the sun sets, those homes also start drawing from the available energy, adding to the load stress, according to Georgis. 

The opt-in plan would be used during the summer months only, and during the peak hours from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Consumers would be notified of the higher cost of electricity so as to choose what to power up.

IID’s Belen reminded Georgis of the extreme summer temperatures in the Valley, and he said the TOU was not meant to be difficult, but maybe raise the thermostat a few degrees and look for a more convenient load to shift to non-peak hours.

Director JB Hamby mentioned “smart” thermostats can pre-cool the house and back off during peak usage. Georgis agreed adding electric cars can be programmed to pull electricity in off-peak hours.

Georgis said revenue for the IID would be the same, but customers using TOU would save money on their electric bill.  Belen added managing power consumption during peak hours would save the IID from implementing the Energy Cost Adjustment which is added to consumers’ bills to pay for the higher than budgeted energy buy so as to keep from overloading the system and causing rolling blackouts, if not a total power failure. 

The meeting was held in the IID La Quinta boardroom, the next workshops will be Feb. 1 and 15, in the El Centro boardroom.

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