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Frequently Asked Questions

General
1. Who is eligible for PowerPass?
2. How long will the PowerPass pilot run?

My Energy Rate
3. How are PowerPass dynamic rates different from your utility’s fixed rates?
4. What is included in the energy rate?

5. How does the PowerPass energy rate compare to my utility energy rate?
6. How often will the energy rate change?
7. What is the difference between an actual and an estimated price of electricity?
8. What are the general trends in hourly prices?

High Price Alerts
9. What is a High Price Alert?
10. How are High Price Alerts different from #OhmHours?

My Statement
11. What is the “Generation” charge?
12. What is my “Delivery & Other” charge?
13. How is my total PowerPass “bill” calculated?
14. Where can I find the total electric charge on my utility bill?

My Savings
15. How do I save money with PowerPass?
16. Am I guaranteed to save every month?

My Account
17. What happens to my OhmConnect account while I'm enrolled in PowerPass?
18. Why is my OhmConnect account frozen while I participate in PowerPass?
19. Does participating in this pilot change my utility?
20. Can I leave the pilot after enrollment?

1. Who is eligible for PowerPass?

Because this is a small pilot program (we’re testing a lot!), we are opening it only to individuals who match the the following criteria:

If you believe that you match all of these criteria and are still being told that you’re ineligible, contact us at help@ohmconnect.com.

2. How long will the PowerPass pilot run?

The initial PowerPass pilot will run for six months—from January to the end of June 2019.
Why six months? This program is new for all of us. We want to learn what works and what doesn’t, what you, the user, likes and does not. Taking stock after 6 months will give us the chance to do this.

Will PowerPass resume after the pilot? California does not yet allow households to access power at wholesale prices. We are hoping to help change this, in part by sharing the experience of PowerPass users like you! If things go well with the pilot project, you could be one of the first testers of a program that transforms the way Californians use energy.

3. How are PowerPass dynamic rates different from your utility's fixed rates?

The real cost of producing electricity changes throughout the day. It’s normally low during daylight hours, when California’s grid is flooded with cheaper renewable energy, and high in the evening, when more expensive fossil fuel plants come online to meet the growing energy demand of households beginning their post-work routines.

It also fluctuates seasonally. Electricity is typically more expensive in the summer months, when millions of households turn on their air conditioning, and cheaper in the spring and fall, when air conditioners are replaced with open windows and a cool breeze.  

Your energy bill likely does not reflect these real-time price changes. Most electricity providers in California (and across the United States) charge a fixed, per kilowatt hour (kWh), rate for the energy you use. This fixed rate is supposed to flatten out the peaks and valleys of daily and seasonal price fluctuations and make consumer bills more predictable. It also includes a markup, an “insurance” of sorts against the possibility of unexpected and rapid price increases. This insurance protects the utility in cases when it might be forced to buy energy at a very high cost—think about a very hot summer day with a major power plant outage, for example—that it would otherwise not be able to recover.

All of this sounds sensible, right? It is. But it also leaves many consumer bills much higher than they need to be.

The real price of energy is lower, on average, than the fixed rate you are paying to your utility. More importantly, a fixed rate doesn’t allow you to save even more by shifting the use of energy-intensive appliances to times when electricity is cheaper. This is why dynamic rates can be so powerful.

What’s more, dynamic rates can be a boon for the environment. When we collectively spread our energy use away from the peak evening hours, we are making greater use of cheap renewable energy and reducing the need for “peaker plants”—the dirtier and less efficient power generators that are turned on specifically to meet surges in customer demand for electricity.
In short, dynamic rates give smart consumers like you the opportunity to respond to clear and transparent price signals—this is sometimes as easy as shifting power-intensive tasks by just an hour or two—and with that, the ability to take greater control of your energy bill.

Are you ready to take control of your energy? Enroll in the PowerPass pilot!

4. What is included in the energy rate?

The energy rate is the price you pay for each unit of energy that you use. [A unit of energy is called a kilowatt-hour, or kWh.] The PowerPass energy rate is actually the sum of two different rates: a variable power “generation rate” and a fixed “delivery & other” rate.

Variable and fixed components of the PowerPass energy rate explained in FAQ


What is the “generation” rate?

The generation rate is the cost of actually producing a unit of the power you consume, for example, by running a natural gas power plant or a solar farm.

Although you don’t see it under your utility’s fixed rate plan, the real cost of producing electricity changes constantly based on which power plants are turned on and how much demand there is on the grid from users like you. It is what makes the PowerPass all-inclusive energy rate vary hour-by-hour.

What is the “delivery & other” rate?
Once power is produced, it needs to be delivered to households and businesses. The cost of delivering electricity is the other big component of the energy rate.*

Unlike generation, the price of delivering a unit of electricity remains fixed throughout the day and your bill cycle, both under your current utility plan and with PowerPass. In fact, we take this rate, about 15 cents, straight from PG&E.

PowerPass is different from your utility rate plan because it exposes you to the real generation rate for electricity. We group the “generation” and “delivery & other” rates together under My Energy Rate for simplicity and so that you can directly compare the total rate to the one on your utility bill (How does the PowerPass energy rate compare to my utility energy rate?).

Now that you know energy rate’s two components, you can obtain the generation rate only for any given hour by simply subtracting 15 cents from the number in the My Energy Rate window.

* “Other” charges include a variety of much smaller fees collected by your utility to, for example, provide low-income bill assistance, help fund energy efficiency programs, and restore former nuclear plant sites, among others. If you’re interested in learning more, PG&E provides a very informative breakdown of your power and gas statement.

5. How does PowerPass energy rate compare to my utility energy rate?

If you look closely at your utility bill, you will see that you are likely currently paying about 21.5 cents for every kWh of electricity your household consumes.

Utility bill showing the costs per kwh comparison to PowerPass

Your PowerPass energy rate changes hour-by-hour based on the real-market price of electricity. Many hours it will be lower than 21.5, but some hours, it could be higher.

Think of it this way: if the PowerPass energy rate is higher than 21.5, you’re not saving money compared to your utility bill. Shift use of energy-intensive devices to lower-cost times of day!

6. How often will the energy rate change?

The price of your electricity will change every hour, at the start of the hour—for example, at 1:00 pm for the 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm hour block.

We will always show you the actual electricity prices for the next two hours. To help you plan, we will also show the estimated electricity prices for the following two hours.

Here is an example of what you will see at 1:00pm:

7. What is the difference between an actual and an estimated price of electricity?

PowerPass obtains the real hourly electricity price from CAISO: the California Independent System Operator. Think of CAISO as a big marketplace where the supply of energy from generators like power plants meets the demand for energy from consumers like you, your local businesses and big industrial facilities. Electricity prices are determined by the amount of supply and demand in this marketplace.

CAISO always estimates prices a day in advance, for every hour of the following day, based on the expected amount of power that will be available to the grid and the expected demand for power from consumers. These are called the “day-ahead” prices. Each day, yesterday’s day-ahead prices are updated in real time based on the actual supply and demand of energy.
Many times, the day-ahead and real-time prices are very close. But on occasion, if there is an unexpected outage somewhere in the system for example, real-time prices will look quite different.

PowerPass estimated prices are the day-ahead prices, those projected by the CAISO a day in advance for that specific hour the following day. Think of it as a best guess.

PowerPass actual prices are based on the real-time supply and demand for energy in the marketplace, which fluctuate as the day progresses. [Energy nerd tip: There are a variety of “real-time” prices: hourly, 15-minute, 5-minute are some of them. For simplicity, we have chosen to show the hourly prices.]

But if we have the actual price during the day, why do we show estimates at all?

The actual hourly prices are typically made available about two hours ahead—they are “real-time”, after all. So, at 1:00pm, we only know the actual price until 3:00pm. But because we’d like to give you additional information to help you plan your energy use, and because the day-ahead prices are often quite close to the real-time prices, the PowerPass dashboard will also show you price estimates for the following two hour blocks.

Your bill will be determined using the actual electricity price.

8. What is a High Price Alert?

You will always have price information available to you on the PowerPass dashboard. But you’re busy and probably can’t check the dashboard throughout the day. In order to help you use electricity when it’s cheaper—and thereby maximize your savings— high prices will trigger text message alerts to notify you ahead of a high price period. We will also let you know when prices return to normal.

How this works:

9. How are High Price Alerts different from #OhmHours?

As an OhmConnect member, you know that an ohmhour is a time to save as much as you possibly can—turn off that TV, turn up the thermostat, avoid using the laundry machine… you know the drill. It’s one hour, and you need to do your best to beat your forecast.

A High Price Alert is similar in that it lets you know that saving energy will benefit you. But unlike and ohmhour, a high price period can last for one hour, or two hours, or even five hours! So rather than doubling down and shutting off your power-hogging devices all at once during one specific hour, you will earn when you shift the use of energy-intensive devices to lower-cost hours.

A High Price Alert does not mean that you have to turn everything off, or sit in the dark for several hours. You are not trying to beat any specific usage forecast to earn money. A High Price Alert simply says: “Hey, do you have some flexibility? Maybe you can run that dishwasher before bed when prices tend to be lower? Taking the day off tomorrow? Maybe you can throw in a load of laundry in the day time, when the grid is flooded with cheap and clean energy?”

A High Price Alert is simply a tool that you can use to plan and think ahead. Check out “My Energy Rate” on your dashboard to see forecasted prices for the next 4 hours.

10. What are the general trends in hourly prices?

Why do electricity prices fluctuate:

Throughout the day? Prices are typically highest in the late afternoon and tend to peak between 4pm and 8pm. This reflects the higher demand for electricity from consumers coming home to begin their evening routines. They are generally low at night, when demand for power is low, and during mid-day, when California’s grid is flooded with cheap renewable energy (largely solar). If you find yourself at home and the sun is shining, go ahead and run that dishwasher or do a load of laundry!

Throughout the week? Prices are typically higher during the week rather than the weekend. This is because customer demand for electricity is more smooth—people come and go throughout the day on Saturdays and Sundays—and grid operators do not need to turn on the more expensive “peaker plants”—the dirtier and less efficient power generators that are turned on specifically to meet quick surges in customer demand for electricity.

Throughout the year? Prices are typically high in the summer months and lower in the fall, winter and spring. The primary culprit? Your air conditioning unit. Air conditioners, especially central A/C are among the most power-hungry appliances in your home. This is partly because it simply takes a lot of energy to run, but also because it is on for long periods of time—sometimes 24/7. Generally, the hotter the temperatures outside, the pricier the electricity.

On the other hand, in the spring, winter, and fall, prices are not only lower, but remain more stable throughout the day, with smaller spikes in the morning and evening. On many cool days the hourly price of electricity remains pretty low all day long.

11. What is the "Generation" charge?

This is the cost of actually producing the power you consumed throughout the bill period.

The PowerPass generation charge is calculated by multiplying the power you used each hour by the real-market price of power generation for that hour—summed across every hour of the bill period. (See What is included in the energy rate?)

12. What is the "Delivery & Other" charge?

Once power is produced, it needs to be delivered to households and businesses. The cost of delivering electricity to you throughout the bill period is the other big component of your total electric charge.*

Unlike generation, the price of delivering a unit of electricity remains fixed throughout the day and your bill cycle, both under your current utility plan and with PowerPass, and equals about 15 cents per kWh.

The PowerPass “Delivery & Other” charge for each bill cycle is calculated by multiplying your total power consumption by 15 cents.

* “Other” charges include a variety of much smaller fees collected by your utility to, for example, provide low-income bill assistance, help fund energy efficiency programs, and restore former nuclear plant sites, among others. If you’re interested in learning more, PG&E provides a very informative breakdown of your power and gas statement.

13. How is my total PowerPass "bill" calculated?

Your total electric charge for PowerPass is simply a sum of the “Generation” charge, the “Delivery & Other” charge and the membership fee. If you’re interested, you should be able to reproduce this total yourself using the information recorded in the “My Energy Use” box.


14. Where can I find the total electric charge on my utility bill?

We take the “PG&E Electric Total” you see on your statement straight from the information provided by your utility. This number is not calculated by PowerPass and is shown for comparison.

If you’d like to find it yourself, the total electric charge appears on page 3 or 4 of most utility bills.

Total electric charge on utility bill explained by PowerPass

15. How do I save money with PowerPass?

In general, the rate you pay to your utility for electricity reflects an average of the high and low rates the power grid might see throughout the weeks and months. Add in power delivery charges and other fees and viola, you have the rate you pay for your electricity.

With PowerPass, you are exposed to the high and low rates, rather than the average. (See What is included in the energy rate?)

So how do you save money? You save by shifting your use of very energy-intensive electronics to times of day when energy is cheaper—to the extent possible of course.

Not sure what household devices and appliances use the most electricity? Here’s a short list to get you started.

Energy Usage of Common Household Appliances (per hour, unless indicated otherwise)

Table of energy usage of common household appliances
Here are a couple of tips to help your succeed (we’ve been doing these too!):

No need to sit in the dark. Just a couple of changes in the way you use power-hungry devices can make a big difference.

16. Am I guaranteed to save every month?

We expect PowerPass members to save the majority of the months that they are enrolled in this pilot. There may, however, be months when your PowerPass “bill” is actually higher than your utility bill.

Why does this happen?

As we explain here the fixed rate your are currently being charged by your utility is supposed to flatten out the peaks and valleys of daily and seasonal price fluctuations. It also includes a markup, an “insurance” of sorts against the possibility of unexpected and rapid price increases. This insurance protects the utility in case when it might be forced to buy energy at a very higher cost that it would otherwise not be able to recover.

With a dynamic rate, a customer is more exposed to the “peaks” in electricity prices. Sometimes, particularly in the hottest summer months when households are all running their air conditioners at the same time, the price of electricity goes above the fixed rate you pay to your utility.

If you are unable to shift use of the most energy-intensive appliances, your PowerPass “bill” might actually be higher than your utility bill for that month. If this happens, don’t worry, your overall savings—the total across all months that you’ve participated in PowerPass—are still almost certainly positive.

Unsure about your overall savings? Check out “My Savings” on your dashboard.

17. What happens to my OhmConnect account while I'm enrolled in PowerPass?

Your OhmConnect account will be frozen while you participate in PowerPass. This means:

If you disenroll from PowerPass, your OhmConnect account will be un-frozen and you will be able to participate in #OhmHours as if nothing had happened!

18. Why is my OhmConnect account frozen while I participate in PowerPass?

We have frozen your OhmConnect account for the duration of your participation in PowerPass. (See What happens to my OhmConnect account while I’m enrolled in PowerPass?)

This is the case because we want this pilot to simulate “real world” conditions as much as possible. If you actually signed up for a dynamic rate plan anywhere in the U.S., you would not be able to participate in both the dynamic rate plan and demand response (this is the technical term for #ohmhours) at the same time.

Why? In both instances, you would be reducing your energy use at times when the grid needs it most. For both #OhmHours and PowerPass, this would essentially be the exact same time of day. So, you would likely receive a simultaneous #OhmHour notification and a High Price Alert and respond to both, for example, by waiting to run your dishwasher. You would then receive two “payments” — #OhmHour payments and bill savings from shifting your energy use—for the same energy reduction action. These “double payments” are not allowed in a real-world setting.

19. Does participating in this pilot change my utility?

No, participating in PowerPass does not replace your current utility. PowerPass is a simulation of dynamic pricing. It is not an energy service provider or a utility program.

Here are a few additional things to know:

20. Can I leave the pilot after enrollment?

You can leave the pilot at any time. If you cancel before the start of the next billing cycle, you will not be charged moving forward.