Rock Hill waits on electric rate test

adouglas@heraldonline.comFebruary 25, 2013 

  • Smart Switch

    For information on Smart Switch, visit the utilities page on www.cityofrockhill.com or call 803-329-5500.

    Smart Switch customers will be included in a drawing for a $100 utility bill credit at each City Council meeting.

— Rock Hill’s City Council heard an annual update on Monday night from the city’s electricity provider, Piedmont Municipal Power Agency – a group whose wholesale price determines, in part, the cost of electricity in Rock Hill.

PMPA did not signal during the meeting whether it will increase its rates to provide power to Rock Hill this year. The agency’s rates have been increased every year for the past decade.

City officials predicted last year that PMPA might raise its rates as much as 7 percent in May 2013.

During budget talks later this year, the city can choose to absorb some of the rate increase, which would keep customers from bearing the entire burden of paying higher electricity rates.

The city absorbed most of PMPA’s 6.7 percent rate increase in 2012, passing on the rest to customers.

Customers paid about $4 more per month for electricity as a result of the increase.

Rock Hill and nine other cities that get power from PMPA will get information over the next two months about 2013 rate increases.

PMPA representatives are running a pilot program in Clinton and Laurens that helps reduce customers’ electricity costs by interrupting service in homes when air conditioning units and hot water heaters are running needlessly.

The test program is similar to Rock Hill’s Smart Switch program, which has been in place for years.

More than 3,000 Rock Hill customers have signed on to Smart Switch which is a voluntary initiative to save the city and residents money on electricity costs.

If PMPA’s test run with the program is successful, it could help the group reduce its need to buy supplementary power from providers other than the Catawba Nuclear Station on Lake Wylie. Duke Energy operates the plant; PMPA is a joint owner.

About 20 percent of PMPA’s budget is spent on buying supplementary power every year. Purchasing the power from other sources costs more than it would to get the power from the nearby nuclear plant.

The Catawba Nuclear Station is recognized as one of the most cost-effective units of its type in the country, PMPA and Rock Hill officials say.

At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Doug Echols asked PMPA’s representative what the group was doing to offset its need to access power from places other than the Catawba Nuclear Station.

The new program is one way PMPA’s member cities can reduce the group’s need to buy supplementary power.

Looking into using an additional nuclear plant is another way to reduce the need for supplementary power, the PMPA representative said.

The city is investigating a new way of putting money-saving tools in the hands of customers.

Rock Hill may soon have an online program that would show customers what time of day they are using the most power and water.

The city already uses Wi-Fi capabilities to remotely read about 7,000 meters in the city.

New plans to provide the meter-reading data to customers would help people make “real-time” decisions about when they use appliances in their home, said Jimmy Bagley, assistant city manager.

If residents want to adjust and consume power in their homes during off-peak hours – mainly at night – then the city could develop a new billing structure to help them save money.

The new billing structure and rates, Bagley said, could go before the council sometime over the next year or two.

About Smart Switch

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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