The type of meter you have can determine how you are charged for electricity. Many businesses and large organizations in Ontario have interval meters which measure peak demand, how much electricity is being used and when it is being used. If you are a consumer with demand over 50 kW (approximately equivalent to an electricity bill of $2000 per month) and you have an interval meter then you are paying the hourly Ontario energy price. This means you pay a different price for electricity every hour of the day.
If you have an interval meter you may be able to get access to your business’s hourly electricity profile from your local distribution company. The meter data can help you monitor and manage your energy consumption by showing you:
- when and how often you reach a demand peak which sets all your delivery charges for the month;
- whether your energy use coincides with the most expensive times of the day;
- how your electricity use varies from day to day, shift to shift and month to month which may help identify wasteful practices or energy-savings opportunities and
- how high your ‘baseload’ use is or how much electricity is being used when your business is shut down overnight or on the weekends.
Businesses that use over 50 kW in demand without interval meters are billed a weighted average price (based on the average usage pattern in your local distribution company's service area).
Here are some questions that can help you determine whether switching to an interval meter is the right choice for your organization.
Can you shift some of your energy use to other times of the day?
If you have the flexibility to reschedule your production to different times of the day, you can easily reduce your electricity costs.
Prices are typically lower in the early morning, late evening, and on weekends.
Interval meters allow your company to take advantage of fluctuations in price.
How does your energy consumption compare to the weighted average price in your local distribution company's service area?
The wholesale price you are charged by the utility is weighted by the consumption patterns of your community.
If consumers in your area use more electricity at times when prices are higher, this will result in a higher weighted average.
Yet most companies have quite different consumption patterns. Some run 24 hours a day which means they are using more electricity at cheaper times. A banquet hall, for example, tends to use more electricity in the evening and on the weekend, when prices are typically lower.
If your company uses more electricity at lower-priced times of the day, you may be paying more for your energy than you need to.
The way to determine how much you could potentially save by using an interval meter is to compare your company's consumption pattern against that of your local distribution company's service area (their Net System Load Shape).
Your local distribution company can provide information about the Net System Load Shape in your area and how interval meters can help you better manage your electricity costs.
Comparing Energy Costs
In this example, the cost of electricity for a company that uses an interval meter is compared to how much that same company would pay based on a weighted wholesale price charged to all that utility's wholesale customers.
The utility buys electricity on behalf of the entire community it serves - typically purchasing more electricity at high-demand times when prices are higher.
These prices are then averaged out over the billing period and passed on to its customers.
Without hourly consumption information from its customers, the weighted wholesale price assumes that all customers use electricity in exactly the same way at the same times of day.
Here, a company's electricity consumption stays the same throughout the day (in this case, just over 500 kWh each hour, 24 hours a day). It would end up spending more for electricity by paying the weighted utility price.
With an interval meter, its overall costs would be lower during high peak periods, and a little higher during low-demand times, but in the end the company would save almost $50 a day by using an interval meter.
Does your facility have the ability to temporarily reduce consumption in response to high prices?
If you can cut back on or shift a process with little notice, an interval meter may make sense.
You will also need to determine the price at which it makes more economic sense to stop or reduce a process.
The Demand and Price Information page provides current prices and the day-ahead price forecast provides a look at the hourly prices for the next business day.
Do you have the ability to generate your own electricity?
If you already have an internal generator, you may want to explore whether using that generator not just during a power outage but also during higher price periods would help reduce your overall energy bill.
You may also consider testing the generator during high-priced times of the day. More information about distributed generation is available on the Managing Your Energy page.
If you are considering installing an interval meter you need to contact your local distribution company.