Story 2016-01-18 113FN High electrical fees lead school districts to install batteries

High electrical fees lead school districts to install batteries

in environment on (#113FN)
story imageSky-high school electric bills have been in the spotlight this year. More than three dozen San Diego area districts combined forces to press the Public Utilities Commission to deny a large SDG&E rate hike last spring. "In San Diego, really every school is on a high demand rate tariff." The higher costs are known as "demand" charges, and they are unlike the tiered rates familiar to renters and homeowners. The utility pinpoints the single 15-minute period when a school pulls the most electricity, and multiplies that by $41.87 for each kilowatt. This can make for a rather high number when a heat wave spikes air conditioning use, or a cold snap prompts an outbreak of furtive space heaters.

The district is waiting for the state architect's approval to install large blocks of lithium ion batteries at 10 schools in early 2016. The silver-colored columns 8 feet high and 20 feet long will charge up on inexpensive nighttime electricity. Software inside will study each school's habits, relay warnings when use is climbing, and begin feeding battery power toward the school so the school will take less from the electric utility. Green Charge Networks thinks it can save Poway Unified School District some $133,000 its first year and $1.6 million over 10 years. If it doesn't, the school district doesn't pay for the batteries or their installation or maintenance.
Reply 6 comments

Nice trial (Score: 1)

by on 2016-01-19 18:19 (#116DG)

Somebody has to provide for peaking supply. Either the utility has to have nearline generation to bring online quickly/temporarily when needed, or borrowing over the grid, or some kind of storage system (battery, pumped storage, etc) - or the user can provide his own storage system.

There are pluses and minuses for the supplier handling it, and for the user handling it. The supplier can combine all the individual user peaks, which is a kind of economy of scale. The user handling it himself can put a known bound on peaking expense, whereas the supplier is free to change cost policy at any point.

If it's just an expense amelioration system, the user doesn't have to build his system to five nines reliability, or anything like that. Batteries are batteries. I can believe it would make sense economically for the user to do it.

I guess we'll see.

Re: Nice trial (Score: 3, Informative)

by on 2016-01-19 18:29 (#116DV)

I can believe it would make sense economically for the user to do it.
That's what Tesla's betting on.

trial - consequences (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2016-01-22 21:28 (#11J1Z)

1. Electric Co. multiplies peak usage by $42/kilowatt.

2. Consumer 1 installs batteries to reduce peak usage.

3. Consumer 1 figures out they can add solar for not much more.

4. Electric Co. adds surcharge of $41.87/kilowatt to remaining customers for "lost" income.

5. Consumer 2 installs batteries and solar.

Re: trial - consequences (Score: 1)

by on 2016-01-23 04:49 (#11JXB)

Not necessarily true. $42/kW could be close to their actual cost to deliver peak power. So they earn $30,000 less, but they don't have to pay out as much to the expensive peaking power plants, and/or they can sell that generation and transmission capacity to another business in the area to recoup the loss.

That said, I wouldn't put rate increases past SDG&E... Every electric utility out there is trying to kill off net metering and impose exorbitant fees on residential solar customers, even though the numbers say they generally break-even on the arrangement. Fortunately only Nevada has caved, while PUCs, legislators and similar have refused to allow those rate increases almost universally across the country.

Re: trial - consequences (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2016-01-23 06:44 (#11K20)

It could be close to actual costs, but when the utility has different price structures for renters and homeowners (tiered rates), schools (max * $42), and I'm going to guess businesses have their own structure... well that starts to look more like profit maximizing than actual cost.

Plus, if actual costs were the policy, there would be no need for exorbitant fees on "break-even" solar customers.

So yes, while it's not necessarily true, the evidence suggests otherwise.

lead schools... (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2016-01-27 11:45 (#1209E)

Who says that the art of the pune is dead