Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Southern California Edison Baseline

I posted something about electricity sticker shock a few years ago when I first moved into our house. It all has to do with their usage baseline scam. Now that Edison forced a smart meter on us, the pricing scam is more evident.

Back when I was still living in an one-bedroom apartment, my monthly usage baseline was over 600 KWH. This is important because usage within baseline is only ~13 cents per KWH. When my parents moved in to an adjacent one-bedroom apartment, together we could use 1200+ KWH per month at the lowest rate. However, once we moved into our current house, the usage baseline drops to <300 KWH. So instead of paying ~13 cents, I'm forced to pay double. We are using less electricity than before (for both apartments) but we're paying more.

My parents are in Canada for the past few days and since I'm staying in Torrance during the week, there is no one at home. With the smart meter installed, I can go online and view hourly usage data. Here is the chart for April 23rd:

The only items on in the house should be two refrigerators, two computers (with one in sleep mode), and some minor stuff (cable modem, router, cordless phones, alarm clocks, etc). I downloaded the numerical data and it adds up to 12.08 KWH. I looked at historical usage and this is probably the lowest daily usage ever. Our baseline is now 267 KWH per month so just keeping our food fresh and streaming videos online puts us over baseline. So when you hear people say electricity is only 13 cents per KWH in Southern California, they're either ignorant or liars.

Since I live in a house, I expect Obama to say that I'm still not "paying my fair share." He probably wants me to pay more so everyone living in an apartment can have free electricity and vote for him.


After looking at Edison's rate scam structure, it also discourages me to buy an electric car. If I opt for a combined plan, there are only two tiers with the second tier being much more than the regular residential plan. I can remain on the current rate plan, but since I'm in already in tier 4, I'll end up paying 30 cents per KWH to charge an electric car. The best option is to get another meter and charge after 9pm, but some houses can't support another meter, and you probably have to spend thousands of dollars on wiring upgrades. That rate is 12 cents per KWH.

Let's try the math again for a Nissan Leaf. EPA tests gives an average range of 73 miles for its 24 KWH battery pack, which works out to ~4 cents per mile. A comparable gasoline car (Nissan Versa) can get ~30 MPG, which works out to ~14 cents per mile. Assume we save 10 cents per mile, it will take 250,000 miles to make up the difference between the Leaf ($35,000 + $2000? for 2nd meter + charger) and the Versa ($12,000). Can I even drive a Leaf for that long? The battery warranty is only for 100,000 miles. Even if I drive 25k miles per year, that's a 10 year payback period. Do I want to drive a clown car for 10 years?!

If we count in the $7500 federal tax credit, then the payback mileage drops to 175,000 miles, still way above the battery warranty. OTOH, if I can't install a 2nd electricity meter and have to pay 30 cents per KWH, then the cost differential drops to ~4 cents per mile, then the payback is 437,500 miles, even with the tax credit.

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