Electricity – Can What Happened in Massachusetts, Happen Elsewhere?


The price to fill up a battery might be getting more expensive. While we may want to understand the use of electricity like we do gasoline, ‘per kWh’ rather than ‘per gallon,’ new rules complicate how easy this is becoming.

Two rules coming down from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) could be followed by other states. In January, a decision to abolish off-peak pricing, and institute demand charges on residential customers became final. If adopted more broadly, each is likely to have the effect of raising costs for owners of electric vehicles, solar, and storage.

RELATED: EV Home Charging Typically Draws Less Than Half The Power Of An Electric Furnace

You might ask why any state, much less one wanting all three to succeed, would do this? The brave can look at the related document in its entirety (814 pages) for further details. I am going to offer two simpler possibilities: a confluence of utility and environmental interests.

Blue Chevy Bolt charging

Chevy Bolt charging at home

The utility business has found itself in a tricky spot. Despite our appetite for tech, United States electricity demand fell a surprising 2.3% in 2017 (EIA Residential data). Americans are adopting renewables and efficiencies everywhere. This is a problem when utilities, like any business, are expected to grow.

Their response is to revisit how we pay for our electricity. Denying off-peak pricing or “time of use” (TOU) and including demand charges are tools that can help preserve higher bills. Other already active rules explain why this same EIA data shows we spent more, despite using less.

The policies add to what can be confusing electric bills, which may just leave some people thankful they have a reliable connection.  We like it when we flip a switch and the lights go on.  Content, we may decide it is time to put the bill away.

Some states, like Massachusetts, are pursuing efficiencies aggressively enough that it may come as no surprise one of its utilities combined reliable sounding terms, like “Ever” and “source”, into a new name. Taking electric customer’s bills in a direction that might someday resemble a cable bill can sound like a pretty good idea, but is one at logger-heads with how most of us think about cars.

All electric vehicle owners remember what it was like to watch the dials spin at a gas pump. Some may have driven to save twenty cents or aimed for “6 cent Tuesdays”. We paid a price for fuel, sometimes less at the right time, and more if we used more. Electricity costs work much the same way.

ALSO READ: Survey Says: Optimized At-Home Charging Preferred Over On-Demand

One difference is just how cheap nighttime power can make those “6 cent Tuesdays” a yawn. Because it remains difficult to store, additional daytime power needs to come from more plants, each costing more than the last. Use enough on a hot day, and the cost of a new power plant is headed to your bill.

Daytime power is expensive. Time of use rates have been around a long time to match the cost of electricity with the time we flip the switch. They also combat the need for new plants. To electric vehicles, their use is so common you would be hard-pressed to find a car incapable of charging automatically overnight. The same is a feature of home battery storage. If left alone, market prices help drive use.

Red Tesla Model S charging at home

Tesla Model S charging at home

The best way to understand demand charges is if you turn everything on. A microwave and water heater’s needs could add up to 5,000 watts, before we turn on other household items.

By reaching breakpoints a utility might decide, at say 15,000 or 25,000 watts, that all your monthly consumption can suddenly be charged a higher rate.  It would be akin to paying a charge, not for how much, but how fast gas comes from the pump.

You won’t know or be able to manage demand without expensive hardware, and relative to reaching into a glovebox to program your car’s TOU, there is little information you would have about when you crossed this line. Charging cars at night or staggering the use of household items would be about all one can do.

Environmental advocates might tolerate higher rates for homes with solar panels, an EV, or even batteries if they believe the money raised can serve a better purpose. Higher prices help inspire conservation, for one. Another argument is the efficiency of scale, particularly “utility-scale.” Buying solar fields, battery installations or off-shore wind farms can clean the world up faster than anything we do at home. A third, more complex argument, is to stop consumers from lowering payments into a system that has come to feed many. Each could be a possible motive.

Whichever the case, the normal interest in those who “act locally” may be giving way compelling them to also “think globally,” and pay for both. The reason this may have implications beyond Massachusetts is that two normally opposing voices are speaking as one.  The demand charge, specifically, is something more environmental organizations are beginning to endorse. Not all states have efficiency goals. Those that do, could see these demand charges follow.

There is less to suggest the environmental community rejects time-of-use rates. As described, doing so can hasten the need for new power projects and their environmental consequences. The construction involved can also meet stiff resistance, sometimes even for hydropower.

Electric vehicle owners watching the price of electricity are no different than gas-powered owners watching the price of gas or talking about the weather. Electricity is almost always cheaper, but in places, it’s losing its advantage.

A debate may be forming over whether higher rates get us someplace lower ones cannot. It may be EV owners or rate-payers who need to weigh in. Having seen battery prices dramatically fall with the help of expiring tax credits, the adoption of EVs may be nearing the point they only need a clear runway.

Category: Charging, General

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107 responses to "Electricity – Can What Happened in Massachusetts, Happen Elsewhere?"
  1. Mister G says:

    Utilities must understand that consumers would pay more for electricity generated from clean renewable sources. We pay more for clean water over dirty water all the time. CONNECT THE DOTS ON CLEAN AIR WAKE UP FOLKS

    1. scott says:

      More and more renewables cost the same, or less. It would cost a great deal of money to modernize the electric grid while utilizing primarily renewable based generation sources, but certainly no more than say a war in Iraq, or Afghanistan. I mean if we can afford even one of those, we can certainly afford an electric grid appropriate for the twenty-first century.

      1. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

        Well said, Sir.

      2. Ziv says:

        Scott, your point about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is poorly made. Neither of those wars were about oil or energy. They were about fighting, however poorly, against a violent ideology of Islamic fundamentalism. If Iraq was about the oil, why were the oil fields not fought for and held? Why would the post war contracts for production go to non-American oil companies?
        Iraq was Bush and Congress attacking where they thought the Islamic fundamentalists would fight, and where it was assumed that we could win. Afghanistan has always been a holding action because we never wanted to use the level of violence needed to actually win a war in Afghanistan. And in 2007 through 2012 it looked like we had won in Iraq. So much so that in 2011 both Biden and Obama referred to it as one of their foreign policy successes.

        1. KenZ says:

          Having spent time in both those wars, I would humbly submit that Afghanistan was not about oil, but Iraq had clear energy security (oil) influences. If the only reason we went in was to topple dangerous genocidal regimes, we would have invaded Burma/Myanmar a long time ago.

          1. Ziv says:

            Burmese nationalists didn’t murder 3,000 Americans on 9-11. Try again.

            1. TwoVolts says:

              “Burmese nationalists didn’t murder 3,000 Americans on 9-11.” Yes Ziv. Iraq murdered those Americans, and then they sent anthrax through the US mail system.

              Oh wait, there were no Iraqis involved in 9/11 and the anthrax was the Ames strain from a US Army laboratory.

              The most prominent promoter of the “violent ideology of Islamic fundamentalism” is an ally of the U.S. Would you like to take a wild guess which country?

              1. Ziv says:

                Don’t be simple. Read my posts. Wahabi’ism and its Madrasahs are the main enemy, not Burma or any of your trumped up problems. The Iraq war wasn’t about oil or killing Bin Laden, it was about destroying the ideology that led to Bin Laden and 9-11. And it worked reasonably well until Obama sold the world out and pulled out of Iraq.

                1. TwoVolts says:

                  “The Iraq war…was about destroying the ideology that led to Bin Laden and 9-11.”

                  Again, complete and utter nonsense.

                  1. Ziv says:

                    You are not looking at what actually happened, you are regurgitating what you have been told. But that is not surprising. Sheep do what sheep are told to do.
                    Do you have a clue as to why Bush and Congress chose to attack Iraq? The Dems were on board as well. It was a popular decision.

                    1. TwoVolts says:

                      This is fruitless. Let’s move on. I enjoy your posts/contributions on EV related topics. Let’s just agree to disagree on this topic.

                    2. Ziv says:

                      Agreed. Sometimes outlooks are so far apart that looking for agreement is too much to ask.

                    3. SJC says:

                      He is not agreeing with your babble.

                2. Mint says:

                  Worked well?!? What a load of crap. There was little to no terrorism brewing in Iraq at the time of the invasion.

                  The war BRED terrorism, not just in Iraq but even more elsewhere.

                  I’ll agree that it had nothing to do with oil, but it was an utterly stupid and myopic outlet for 9/11 vengeance.

                3. Mr. M says:

                  The ideology that led to the 9/11 was the American one. The USA was always recognized in the middle east as the big police Office No one called and than was rioting your House and homes of your neighbourhood.

                  USA has a Long History in manipulating History there. The Boomerang comes Back sometime…

            2. Martin Winlow says:

              So, as long as it isn’t US citizens that are being murdered it doesn’t matter?

              1. TwoVolts says:


                Sadly, that is the prevailing view here in the US.

        2. TwoVolts says:

          Iraq “was about fighting…against a violent ideology of Islamic fundamentalism.”

          This is complete nonsense.

          1. Bern says:

            Thank you Two Volts, cannot say more (in fact less). As from Europe I did not felt right to answer this because it’s not the right place, also because I was shock by such statements.

            1. Ziv says:

              You both can babble all you want, but radical Islam is exporting hate. Look at the crime rate in Germany or Sweden after they opened their borders.
              Do either of you understand what Wahabi teaching is like? Or its role in the murder and mutilation of those that choose not to follow it? Do you understand what MbS is trying to achieve in Saudi Arabia? I would bet you haven’t a clue.
              Islamic fundamentalism is much more of a problem than you realize, but that isn’t surprising.
              You are Beta males, trying to condemn a person who is pointing out the shortcomings of capitulation.

              1. TwoVolts says:

                Yes Ziv – change the subject to crime in Sweden and Germany – as if you are an expert. And throw in a pathetic ‘ad hominem’ attack as well. Let’s stick to the original topic. Answer please:

                What role did Iraq play in 9/11?

                Did Iraq pose a threat of ‘violent ideology of Islamic fundamentalism’ to any country?

                1. Ziv says:

                  Iraq played a minimal role in 9-11. They were supporting terrorists in Israel, but they had a tangential role to play in 9-11. The reason they ended up being the playground in the battle of ideologies is simply that if we had fought Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan we would have had to kill nearly everyone in the country. Even Russia failed in that.
                  We fought radical Islam in Iraq because we could convince half the population to support us in killing the other half.
                  We used half of Iraq to kill the other the more murderous leaders of the half that was supporting Bin Laden and other Muslim extremists. We fought 9-11 in a country of our choosing because the alternative was fighting in a country where we could only win by killing nearly everyone. If you don’t understand how to destroy an insurgency, you don’t understand the Iraq War.

                  1. TwoVolts says:

                    Your post here about using one half of the country to kill the other half is a unique and colorful narrative. If that works for you – go for it.

                    BTW – Russia failed in Afghanistan because the CIA supported the radical Islamic fundamentalists and armed them with Stinger missiles.

                    1. Ziv says:

                      Exactly. Russia couldn’t subdue Afghanistan because we gave the mujahedin Stingers to make the battle to expensive for Russia to tolerate. Russia failed to get enough support from the minority portion of Afghanistan to defeat the majority portion. Which is an error Bush did not repeat. Bush used half of the Iraqi’s to defeat the other half. Bush won the war. From late 2007 to 2011 everyone knew Bush had won the war. Then Obama decided to pull all our troops out and pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory.
                      Sadly, the reason Obama chose to pull all the troops out was ignored when he was forced to send them back in less than 10 years later. A rigid adherence to Status of Forces only mattered when Obama wanted to hurt America, not when it could be adjusted to help us and our allies.

                  2. TwoVolts says:

                    I wasn’t aware that there was an insurgency occurring in Iraq before we decided to invade.

                    1. Ziv says:

                      So you think that Iraq was happy under Saddam? Really? The murders of people who dissented? The murder of anyone that wasn’t a Baathist? And you are ok with that? So Iraq prior to 2003 was ok by your standards? With the government sanctioned murder, the encouragement of terrorism in Israel, with Iraqi families receiving the remains of their relatives in a bag. That is ok? Saddam and the Baathists were murderous thugs. Every year they were in power reinforced that fact.

        3. Cleanair says:

          Yeah righ Cheney cooked Irak invasion for oil, even your president Trump said that. The Monet spent on that war, plus all the money spent and spend cleaning the consecues of that war will be enough for fixing the grid and all the infrastructure in US.

        4. Alonso Perez says:

          Saddam, whatever else you may say about him, was not an Islamic fundamentalist, nor was his regime. In fact he used to violently repress fundamentalists, who benefited from his demise.
          The false excuse was weapons of mass destruction. The real driver was the oil. It didn’t really matter which multinational companies got the oil business, though Halliburton made fortunes. The scheme was the huge reconstruction contracts. The oil was worth a lot more as a source of funding than the mere margin on the business.
          Afghanistan >was< about 9/11, but was unwinnable, as counter insurgency efforts almost always are. The Soviets and the British before them could not hold the country, and not for lack of violence. In the 1920's the British pioneered punitive civilian bombing from aircraft in Afghanistan, the same act considered savage when the Germans did it in Spain just a few years later.

          1. Ziv says:

            Are you aware that Bill Clinton claimed Iraq had WMD in 1998? Or that the French government pointed out that on of the reasons they would not support the war in 2002 was the probability that Iraq had WMD? Or that multiple reports of chemical weapons were reported in the post war occupation of Iraq? Only an idiot would claim that Iraq didn’t have some WMD capability, the only question is how effective it was. And luckily, it wasn’t used. Even the NY Times is forced to admit that they were there, even though they weasel around the facts a good bit.


            1. TwoVolts says:

              Clinton claimed a lot of things – including that he never had sexual relations with Miss Lewinski. I prefer facts and evidence to claims – especially claims from politicians.

              I read your article. Did you read it? It states the artillery shells were “remnants of an arms program Iraq had rushed into production in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war… and had been manufactured before 1991” and were “filthy, rusty or corroded”.

              Abandoned and rusting weapons that the West helped provide to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. Is this your WMD capability? A far cry from Powell’s UN presentation with depictions of mobile active manufacturing skids.

          2. TwoVolts says:

            “Saddam, whatever else you may say about him, was not an Islamic fundamentalist, nor was his regime. In fact he used to violently repress fundamentalists, who benefited from his demise.
            The false excuse was weapons of mass destruction. The real driver was the oil.”

            Alonso Perez,
            You got it. I would only add that continued pricing of oil in US dollars was also a key driver.

          3. TwoVolts says:

            BTW. The invasion was originally referred to as Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) before it was changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    2. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

      “Utilities must understand that consumers would pay more for electricity generated from clean renewable sources.”

      That’s already the case in the quite liberated german electricity market. I can choose my provider freely. I can choose to go 100% nuclear or 100% renewables or 100% hydro… and quite a lot of mixed tarrifs in between. While “Energiewende” was heavily corrupted by Angela Merkel, liberalization of the electricity market works quite well here…

      In fact I know quite some people who choose to pay more for 100% renewable. (On the other hand I also know some who chose to go “cheap” which in most cases is coal or nuclear (which both is non-renewable))

      1. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

        quite some <- quite a lot

        1. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

          quite a lot of !!!

      2. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

        …and those who chose to go cheap will hopefully choose to go renewable…

      3. Nick says:

        Nuclear fission is effectively zero carbon and has a supply which will last 100s of years if we use breeders.


        1. Ambulator says:

          With breeders nuclear would last millions of years, if not longer. The waste is also inconsequential. The important questions are the safety and the cost.

          1. Roy_H says:

            Low cost, safe, and almost no radio-active waste nuclear power is possible with a little more research money. LFTR Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactor http://flibe-energy.com/lftr/

            1. jimjfox says:

              +100 Also http://www.thoriumenergyworld.com/ http://thorconpower.com/news

              China, India, now Russia have committed to building commercial thorium reactors of many flavours; Indonesia may be first to succeed.
              Never mind Mars, if only Elon was interested in developing MSR’s he would have far more impact than either SpaceX or Tesla…

              Coal is dying fast, LNG has overtaken oil production- & renewables- wind especially are racing along. But the future is safe, cheap nuclear, ie THORIUM.

          2. Mint says:

            Agreed. At the moment, it doesn’t seem sensible to build more nuclear due to the cost.

            But we should keep the current plants with sunk costs alive as long as they’re economical and reasonably safe.

            Germany, for example, is not only burning gobs of coal coal, but a good chunk of brown coal, which is even worse than typical black coal. Whatever nuclear was shut down would’ve directly displaced it if kept running.

            1. Chris Woodward says:

              Using existing sources to slow Eversource’s rise above its now $.23/KWh, “R1” tariff (w/supply) is part of what I was referring to with “whether higher rates get us someplace lower ones cannot?”. The US average is ~$.13.

              Going higher, to pay for offshore wind, etc. will be cleaner, but can a point be approached where EVs lose their “cheaper to fuel” advantage? Are we “cleaning”, when a consumer begins to say “it doesn’t matter, hybrids and EVs cost nearly the same. I’ll stick with what I know, gas.”? (an EV is about half the emissions of a hybrid, in MA).

              Many focused upon the electric sector aren’t necessarily thinking this way. Granted, MA starts with already high electric costs, and its transportation sector emits double the CO2 of power. We might step back, if getting CO2 down economically is a goal.

        2. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

          I know quite well that nuclear fission is zero carbon. But as you correctly stated “has a supply which will last 100s of years if we use breeders” it is NON-renewable – which was my point.

          It really bothers me that some people don’t get the point of renewable. Please don’t mix the topics renewable and zero carbon. Those are 2 different stories.

          Nuclear fission is NON-renewable.

          Furthermore Nuclear fission is produces one of the most hazardous types of waste humanity had to deal with. If you want to compare nuclear fission to common sense renewables on a waste basis we both agree about zero carbon. But do you think we can just neglegt the heritage to upcoming generations?

          Up to now there is no technical viable solution to get rid or at least long-time storage of nuclear waste. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for studying possible solutions. Power density of nuclear fission is one advantage that needs to be considered as a positive. So IF humanity starts to act responsible one day in the future I am all for nuclear fission as a possibility.

          Up to now my impression is that humankind is far from reaching that point.

          With renewables we just don’t have those nuclear waste problems. Maybe this analogy helps: With AdBlue you can reduce NOx but would that be a reason for you to promote “clean diesel”?

          So why promote nuclear fission?

          Cost? Watch Hinkley Point C. All said.

          And as we already have quite some discussuion going on here on the topic of war. What about the fact that nuclear fission is the basic technology needed to produce nuclear weapons?

          Sorry, but I call bullsh** on every claim that nuclear fission is a good thing for humanity until humanity starts to think and act in a responsible way.

          And who is going to clean up and pay with their health if something goes wrong (just google Tchernobyl, Fukushima or “Leukämiecluster Elbmarsch” to get an impression.)

          With solar, wind and hydro we just have less problems. They are already cheaper and up to get even cheaper.

          One more point would be the fact that it is ridiculous to think that any company would act responsible when it comes to the question of how to operate a nuclear reactor (safe vs. cost-optimized)

          Let there be studies about nuclear fission, nuclear fusion and everything but don’t use it too much until studies regarding societies (local and global) come to the solution that humanity is a responsible and friendly species.

          1. jimjfox says:

            “Don’t get me wrong”
            Well, you ARE wrong. Uranium fission has all the negatives you attribute to it. Thorium fission DOES NOT. So, please read up all you can & rethink the completely different New Nuclear Age.

            1. jimjfox says:

              Oh, also supplies of thorium are effectively infinite, for THREE reasons-
              1. It is at least four times as abundant as uranium
              2. Energy extraction in an MSR is 92-95% as compared to 2-5% in a modern PWR. Therefore far less thorium is needed than uranium.
              3. Thorium has no need for enrichment, nor is it fissile in its natural state.

            2. TwoVolts says:

              On the 7th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster – a disaster that will continue to contaminate the Pacific Ocean for decades to come, let’s agree that we already have a viable renewable energy solution in solar.


              1. Bill Howland says:

                I tend to agree with Ms. Caldicott’s contention that Thorium Reactors (whether the old unworkable designs, or the new-fangled ones) introduce more complications and in the end are unworkable, as all the “Commercial” “TEST” thorium power plants ultimately proved unworkable, uneconomic or both in the past.

                Of course people can go on making simplistic arguments, ignoring technical details (what I usually criticize the H2 enthusiasts of – that their “Pie in the Sky Dreams” need to be brought back down to earth a bit), as that Deceptive and Lieing Strauss said that Nuclear Energy would be “Too cheap to Meter”, when in actuality the only places in this country that have astronomic electricity rates also by coincidence have a large percentage of their juice made by Nukes, and highly – subsidized at that.

  2. F150 Brian says:

    As EV adoption grows, we should expect the TOU concept to disappear, because charging at night will bring nighttime demand closer to daytime, defeating the entire premise behind TOU.

    What we don’t want is realtime demand based pricing. This has been used and companies have had to pay someone to monitor the realtime price and pause production when it crosses a threshold.

    How this works out will likely be a PITA to us because those who write the bills find a way to make it best for them.

    1. DonC says:

      TOU should always work. The time just shifts. Where I am peak used to be noon to six, but with so much solar peak is now five to nine. In winter the difference between peak and off-peak is so small you just charge whenever you plug in. Agree that dynamic TOU would be problematic, but I can’t see anyone moving to dynamic TOU at this point. Too many issues.

      Solar + battery work for just about any TOU pricing plan.

      1. Bryan says:

        I just attended a webinar regarding micro grids. A microgrid is a collection of solar arrays tied together at the substation along with battery storage. It feeds the substation customers, providing for peak shaving for the customers of the substation and backup when the grid is down. They are cheaper than a natgas peaker and they are catching on in numerous areas of the nation.
        They are currently putting PV on industrial buildings and parking lots and residences. The size of the batteries for the home is determined as 30% of a summer day PV production. So on my house it would be 30% of 25 kWh or about 8kWh. For our hybrid inverters that would provide storage for a single 10 kWh battery.

        It is a real cool idea. Even PG&E is backing the concept. With these there is no additional power needed from the grid when short term power demands are high as the local PV and storage provides for it. The Utility never sees the demand. Their job is easier and it is seen as a cheaper cost of power for the customer.

        Just for transparency, I am a Product Manager for a PV inverter company, Darfon America. It is part of my job to make sure we have the right product for the PV industry. Our Hybrid inverter is the H5001 and we incorporate it into a variety Energy Storage Systems(ESS). Direct competitor of the Tesla Powerwall.

        1. Terawatt says:

          The whole point of any webinar is precisely that you DON’T attend it. ?

  3. Tech_guy says:

    Utilities have to pay the 30-year construction loan bills. Decreasing demand leads to higher prices, because costs are fixed.

    1. Steven says:

      Thirty year loans are nothing, did you know that the Federal Excise tax is still paying off the Spanish American War?

  4. Quantum Muse says:

    I welcome the day when the grid is disrupted by solar roofs & battery storage, car dealers are disrupted by Tesla’s direct sales model, and ICE automakers panic when their cars are at a competitive disadvantage on all measures when compared to a Tesla.

    1. Magnus H says:

      You do, huh? So you prefer no grid electricity, but we all should produce our own?

      That will surely invite other means of generating power, locally. Or using non-electric sourcs of power for lightning/heating. Let’s not go there.

      1. TwoVolts says:

        Magnus H,
        I don’t understand your concern over transitioning to solar and batteries and away from the electrical grid. The grid will not disappear. There have been many individuals that have abandoned their land based phone lines. The land-based telephone network will continue to serve those that stay behind. Why is the electrical grid different?

        1. guyinacar says:

          Maybe read that post again?

          The alternative isn’t guaranteed to be solar PV and thoughtful energy storage. It could be (and probably would be) far less green than folks here would care to imagine.

          I think by “let’s not go there,” I understood Magnus H. to mean that massively distributed micro-generation of heating, cooling, and electricity might be dirty and literally impossible to regulate.

          10,000 diesel generators are not better for the planet than one central natural gas co-gen station with scrubbers and a distribution grid, augmented by water lift or battery storage (for peak) and further augmented by residential solar PV & DHW.

          Wood gasification has pros and cons. Outdoor wood boilers have pros and cons. Diesel/propane/natgas gensets have pros and cons, etc.

          Off-grid does not necessarily mean solar, wind, geothermal, convection/trombe, etc. Visit any developing country to see possible bad environmental outcomes on full display.

          1. TwoVolts says:

            Quantum Muse was welcoming the day when the grid is disrupted – not dismantled and eliminated. That was the starting premise. I don’t see any real risk of folks leaving the grid to run diesel generators.

            1. guyinacar says:

              Quantum Muse wants disruptive technology, making us wonder if power grids are fundamentally bad. Magnus cautions to beware of unintended consequences.

              If diesel were $0.23/gal, practically every house in the US would have a heat/electric micro-cogen system. There would be no solar.

              Similar is true of coal and wood. North America is coal-rich, and is covered with trees. We are literally built on top of coal. So I’d be leery of a future in which the grid went away and everyone did whatever they wanted with coal, wood, oil, wind, microturbines, natural gas, propane, and solar in their own backyards.

              Careful what you ask for. The result might not be what you expect, might not be what you desire. It almost certainly wouldn’t be pure solar.

    2. Roy_H says:

      Agreed. Individual solar power (and if necessary batteries) are the only realistic option home owners have of combating electric utilities monopoly on electric service. Utilities charge whatever the law (which they actively lobby in their favor) allows. If enough people significantly reduce their electrical usage, then the utility companies will re-think their gouging policies and offer electricity at a low enough rate to make solar power uneconomical. That will benefit everyone.

      1. Terawatt says:

        This is a line of thinking that leads right back to the farming, or hunter-gatherer, society. Prosperity is based on specialization, and with it comes dependence on others. If we can’t rely on others to supply our energy it’s hard to see how it’s acceptable to do so for our food.

        Exploitation is reduced by ensuring real competition and that entails not allowing companies to be much bigger economies than many states. Then they become much too powerful. And the economies of scale are diminishing, so you lose little efficiency by having 1000 big players (globally) in, say, IT or energy, rather than three to five.

  5. DonC says:

    There isn’t anything wrong with demand charges. Basically a very high power draw put more demands on the grid. You need bigger transformers and larger cables and so forth. In essence using 48,000 watts for an hour will impose will require a more robust network and impose more costs that drawing 2000 watts for 24 hours.

    Shouldn’t be a big deal. Given that most people don’t drive that many miles in a day, most electric vehicles could likely be fully charged overnight even at 120v. Certainly at 3.3 kW or 6.6 kW.

    On the other hand, eliminating time of use pricing just seems crazy. Most states are following California’s lead and moving in that direction.

    On the demand side, the only thing that can solve the demand destruction for electricity is electric vehicles. Utilities should be doing more not less to promote them.

    1. Erik de Vries says:

      I agree. In California, the cost of generating power is only about 1/4 of the consumer cost per kWh. Much of the rest is the cost of the network which has a limited capacity.

      Demand charges would incentivize solar and battery storage. Solar already reduces the afternoon peak load and batteries can reduce the early evening peak load.

      Like with TOU rates per kWh hour, the demand rates per kW should only apply to the hours where the network typically gets congested.

    2. Bill Howland says:

      I hear what you are saying DonC, but I suspect in this case there was some Horse Trading Involved – that of cancelling TOU, while implementing Demand Charges.

      People who say that every household should be able to charge an EV at 20-30 kw per car, for every car in the residential subdivision are basically dreaming if they think they’re going to get someone else to pay for it.

      Massachusetts customers have been basically getting screwed for years. If the changes lower rates for the average residential customer, to that extent its a good thing.

  6. scott says:

    Utilities should be limited to strictly non-profit entities.

    A federal public works bill to modernize our electric grid, would be nice as well.

    1. Terawatt says:

      Because communism has a stellar track record!

      1. CCIE says:

        I agree that socialism doesn’t work for humans since we all think of ourselves first (capitalistic by nature). But, for services like electricity, where competition isn’t possible, I don’t believe for-profit companies should be allowed.

        I live in one of the most expensive states for electricity. We have two major for-profit electric providers, and a small public provider that only supplies a few towns. That public provides charges less than half what the for-profit companies charge all-in per kWh.

        1. Steven says:

          Just because you don’t have an altruistic bone in your body doesn’t mean other don’t too.

          Raising up our community, raises us up as well.

    2. silversod says:


  7. notting says:

    I don’t know if I understood the article. In Germany, domestic electricity contracts with lower price in the night (always the same fixed times) already exist for decades (for night storage heating). Ok, night storage heating is quite uncommon because it’s quite expensive and and if you’re searching for a better electricity contract, the “new” companies don’t offer contracts with 2 prices depending on the time. But in the end, many of them are cheaper than “2 price contracts”.
    Or are they talking about a more flexible system, e.g. for cars that are connected to the Internet?


    1. Chris Woodward says:

      Hi Notting, No cars on the internet, or V2G.

      You are correct about “2-price contracts”, in that they address a peak day-price versus off-peak evening-price. Where electricity has a “market”, a lower price at night is common.

      Demand charges, especially for residential customers, are dicey. Transformers fail when many homes cumulatively over-load them (a “peak”), not necessarily when a typical American home reaches “48,000” watts (which, to DonC’s credit, is about the ceiling for the common 200Amp home). That is small, relative to commercial or industrial users, and detached from the costs of grid peaks reaching billions of watts.

      1. Chris Woodward says:

        …”detached” so long as off-peak pricing plans are allowed to do their job.

      2. Bill Howland says:

        Chris “… That is small, relative to commercial or industrial users, and detached from the costs of grid peaks reaching billions of watts.”.

        So what? In my area the majority of the load is residential since all the industry has been shut down. Last time I checked most places have one or two houses.

        Of course, in my area, residential rates have increased much faster than commercial rates, mostly due to when the time existed that Commercial Rates were the most expensive, more and more customers were bolting and the larger ones started threatening to install their own Natural Gas machines to make their own. The utility responded by making Commercial Rates (for anything but the smallest customers) extremely cheap.

        The end result of all this will be that, per the Edison Electric Institute, the normal charging pattern of the typical electric car will charge over the entire midnight period.

        For all that people here criticize GM for their Mediocre Sized Chargers, the cars in fact are compatible with that Directive.

    2. notting says:

      Thank you to everyone who answered in my thread. Now it’s more clear.


  8. Bloggin says:

    What this is making clear that consumers can’t go halfway with renewable energy.

    – More people buy EVs and buy less gas, gas prices go up in an attempt for companies to maintain profits

    – More people install solar and battery storage, power companies charge more for electricity to maintain profits.

    The solution is for more businesses, homeowners, condo complexes, apartment buildings to install solar and battery storage and screw the power companies before they can screw the customer.

    1. Steve Strange says:

      @Bloggin — exactly. Utilities must be made aware that if they try to screw their customers, some will simply unplug. They will then lobby the government to require everyone to pay whether they are on the grid or not.

      @scott — I totally agree. Utilities will become the next “privatize the gains, socialize the losses” zombie companies.

    2. Mark.ca says:

      There will be a tipping point soon when the cost of pv, ev and storage will get a payoff of under 5 years and then you will really see acceleration. In The southern states we are getting closer every year. Last time i did the math i was at 9 years and the costs of battery, panels and evs are only going lower while gas and electric rates are going up. The utilities will need to buy alot of politicians fast to pass all sorts of law to stop this so we will see a big push from them soon.

  9. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

    “You won’t know or be able to manage demand without expensive hardware, and relative to reaching into a glovebox to program your car’s TOU, there is little information you would have about when you crossed this line.”

    What about smart-metering? I don’t know about the situation in the US but at least some german electricity providers already updated quite a lot of the meters to be “smart”

    for the companies this provides ease of reading and more data.

    for the customer this provides the possibility to check their actual consumption via web-interface…

    while not implemented yet (tmbk) TOU tarrifs could be adapted to actual gross market price… yeah… I keep dreaming 😉

    1. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

      “I don’t know about the situation in the US”

      UPDATE: They exist…


      1. wavelet says:

        Yes, but there are no nation-wide standards, and smart meters are only half the solution: They don’t allow the residential customer to changehis/her demand in real time in response to the current tariff.
        The eventual solution has to some kind of “home electricity controller”, a very cheap box, which would get realtime rate/available power info from the utility, and priorities from the customer. It would turn on appliances, airconditioning, washing machines, EV chargers & other large loads as appropriate. The cost of such a server would be $30-$50 or less, and the added cost to an appliance would be negligible — as long as there was a unified standard…

        1. heisenberghtfromouterspace says:

          You are right.

          Well there is some hardware that could help, but it is too few and to far in its infancy and too expensive.

          Until we all live in smart homes we just have to kill the switch (turn on and off appliances in a responsible way… or implement timers and use them… most washing maschines provide the possibility to program the time of washing, so one could set them up to start in a time of low-cost electricity)

          Smart-metering+hourly electricity prices+education would be the first step.

          Then come the handy technological solutions to make the need for education and resulting obsolete and automate the decision making and action using hardware. (oops… I promote AI and getting rid of the human factor… Please keep humans on earth, they are not smart but at least they are funny 😉 )

          1. Bill Howland says:

            Smart Meters are all basically a scam. California substantially has them and rates are through the roof in most places. Ontario (Canada) same thing, but their astronomical rates (used to be around HALF what I paid in Buffalo, NY – now its on avg double) can only partially be blamed on them. They have other idiocy explaining the full picture of high rates.

            The Utility I have to suffer along with, British owned National Grid was going whole hog into Smart Meters when shot down by a neighboring utility, correctly mentioning that they didn’t need them to fully implement Net Metering for solar/wind personal generation.

            So far, we’ve avoided them, Although NG does have ‘dumb’ radio-read things system wide – even with the gas meters. But at least the rates are currently managable.

            Nationwide the Federal Gov’t subsidized fully HALF the cost of conversion to smart meters. So National Grid figured it would soak the ratepayers for the rest – in the filing they specifically stated:

            1). SM’s WILL NOT lower rates (of course not – they filed the rate increase to raise them, obviously)

            2). SM’s will NOT increase Network or System Reliability.

            Did anyone bother to ask the question, why should we pay more for a new thing that has absolutely no tangible benefits?

  10. Terawatt says:

    You are right that electricity pricing is going to become a lot more complicated. Renewable energy mainly means sun and wind power in most places, and they are intermittent. We gotta harvest when we can, and that’s when the sun shines and the wind blows.

    Alas, wind tends to be stronger at night. The sun is even more partial to the day, but in sum you end up, with the usage patterns we have now, with too much power available at night and too little during the day, making it necessary to buffer huge amounts of energy. Unfortunately that’s expensive.

    So it’s a good idea to shift usage where we can, reducing the need to store energy, or encouraging storage where that is in fact a possibility. For example, instead of office buildings turning the heat totally off until they just have time to heat up by running the heat at full power – using a bit less energy in total but creating a huge spike in demand – it may be cheaper to keep some heating on overnight, and start the climb towards normal temperate a little earlier, running at lower power. In this case the energy is stored as heat in the building.

    But if energy is priced as today, simply or unit, people have disincentives against doing this. The lowest total energy consumed is achieved by heating the building as fast as possible before people arrive – but due to the spike this means we need so much more storage and better grids (than if we use a bit more energy over a longer time) that it’s actually more expensive to use less energy! And guess who would have to pay that? The end users of course.

    So yes, it’ll be more complicated. It may also be that it will be more expensive than it is today. But it will be less expensive than keeping the current price model and switching to renewable energy.

    And for charging EVs, it actually means a big saving. Nearly all EVs can nearly always charge just once a day, and at night is pretty much the ideal time regardless of cost. They don’t need more energy to charge at night instead of during the day either. So they get to buy the very cheap power when consumption is way down and wind is up.

    The YouTube channel Fully Charged has touched on this topic many times, and in one episode Robert shows his total electricity cost for his first EV. Thanks to charging at night and this price model he ended up spending only a fraction as much on “fuel” as he otherwise would have.

    It’s also a model that makes home battery systems pay for themselves (or using V2G), since you can then buy cheap power at night and use it during the day.

    1. Bryan says:

      One thing that needs to be considered. If you are using netmetering then typically you cannot charge a battery off peak and feed it back to the grid. That being the case most hybrid inverters don’t allow charging from the grid

      1. Terawatt says:

        That makes no sense at all. Most hybrid inverters “don’t allow charging a battery from the grid”?!? So what? If I’m on the grid, I can obviously charge my home battery the same way I charge my car’s battery. And since my home battery stays connected while I’m at work, it can power the heat pumps, water heater and so on all day long. Every solar hybrid system with storage allows you to use the stored energy.

        Whether the metering is net makes no difference to this scenario, since we’re not putting energy back into the grid. We’re not buying low and seeing high here, just buying low in bulk and spreading use over time. Net metering is better still, and it’s not technically difficult whether or not popular systems today usually support selling power or not.

  11. Terawatt says:

    Btw what’s up with the site? It seems I’m not getting the mobile version; columns are much wider than the screen at default zoom and zooming out results in unreadable tiny text. Using chrome on android and not requesting the desktop version (there’s a setting in chrome to do so which would cause it to include a header to ask for the desktop site, or perhaps simply spoof the user agent string to pretend it’s desktop chrome). This has happened a couple of times in the past, but I’ve not experienced it in a long time.

  12. mxs says:

    My province get criticized a lot for many energy related things, but this one element they got right … TOU plus 0.10$/kWh off-peak (night) is certainly nothing to complain about. But it was not easy, including the messed up and very costly implementation of smart meters. Certainly worth it, in this instance.

    1. Terawatt says:

      Costly? Please, do the math. It’s nothing.

      It’s not enough to see a big number and conclude “it’s expensive”. A $3000 pair of gloves is expensive, but a $3000 car isn’t. If you divide the cost of installing smart meters by the number of years you expect them to live and then compare that number with one year’s electricity bills you get an idea of they cost anything to install. If they double the cost their effect must be huge to be worthwhile, but at 1% they’re basically with it just to know more about the detailed consumption patterns…

  13. EVShopper says:

    In WA the utilities have a mandate to provide the lowest cost to electricity consumers. My local utility tried TOU charging and found overall people paid more. They ended the program. So now it doesn’t matter. We have the same rate no matter the time of day. Commercial clients do pay for peak demand kW available. They sign up for certain tiers at different rate schedules.

  14. 101101 says:

    What a crap article.

    Issue is natural gas industry if failing again but claiming phony profits and trying to pass the cost on in captured Mass.

    This is the flip side of the cheap gas matters and the petrol industry isn’t a totally helpless terminal welfare case (welfare for inherited wealth case) constantly in need of destabilizing bailouts otherwise known as wars or Tarps or other BS in addition to its debt and titanic actual direct subsidies.
    The extra 500 billion dollars a year that was added to the defense industry is likely just going to the loser petrol industry- never been a worse business in history- its never been revenue positive let alone profitable its been pure scam for at least 70 years- should have ditched it 70 years ago- literally a pure nuclear system would have resulted in less proliferation. It was enshrined once it was clear it would create artificial scarcity in the face of the solution of “the economic problem” but hat was 50 years ago- the results were predictable, but the scam is getting out of the bag with all the in your face automation.

    Above one poster tried to correct another saying Iraq was about ideology- nope it was a petrol bailout. Just ask Tony Blair who was almost recently prosecuted in Britain for War crimes- we will see if the tribunal don’t catch with him and the Bush Admin.

    When you pay 1/7 as much for electricity there is no scenario where green does not destroy petrol or fossil fuel-energy car charging its just simple physics that will never change and it gets even better with green than using useless night time petrol spun costs- every kind petrol source sits there burning at tilt all night long like a cigarette lighter that you buy but can’t switch off.

    Stupidest comments are: people should pay a premium for green as if it were some sort of organic and should should be relegated to a niche to protect poisoned food for instance. Green is already cheaper everywhere and will get cheaper almost without limit so you need to pay less but flat switch. Really its a third of the price already that Petrol is every likely to get to most places on the globe.

    What people need to do is cut from the grid and refuse to pay the grid back up prices, the need to get off the grid with full battery and roof top solar so they can cut this BS off and stop accepting the lies used to prop up the petrol industry which literally causes people 4x as much as they need to and hollows everything out with artificial subsidies.
    Petrol fuel energy only claims a bit over 1 trillion a year in revenues but by the time direct and indirect subsides are taken into account its 10 trillion globally or about 10% of the globally economy but even then it accrues destabilizing debt for its programmed failure.

    People worked 4 hrs a day outside the nest prior to language and tools. Think about how much they work now- the prime source of artificial scarcity has been the petrol scam. The financial industry doesn’t want to be blamed for petrol next failure, its not down with bail-ins- its why Goldman was found saying in the media big oil was never that big they had to borrow from us to pay their dividends. Its why Trump was saying the phony (obsolete) energy industry was in shambles- when has it ever not been in shambles?

    But the bottom line is that people who invest in petrol fuel energy are criminals, they are not entitled to a return on equity but prosecution. And they are not just malevolent but terminally stupid and a serious threat to the survival of the species so its not just criminal prosecution that is needed but also civil forfeiture. And lest anyone say what about pensions- remember that that the petrol fuel loser industry holds pensions hostage tries to use people’s pensions like human shields. Its why Tillerson proposed tying social security to a carbon tax- doesn’t want useless right side welfare cut off even though it was paid off long ago and unjustifiable. Its why General Kelly was going on about the civil war could have been prevented with compromise on slavery- he knows that petrol is about slavery and just like the slavery it can exist with out a right to exploit people- he knows that the petrol fuel energy industry can’t continue to exists because of its deep depraved criminality unless the same thing the South wanted (a right to exploit- to poison etc.) can be enshrined in law. Sorry not going to happen we know you think bankruptcy is a fate worse than death but get used to it, you’ve earned it along with an ocean of reparational debt that drain any trusts as well 100x over.

  15. Get Real says:

    Just as PEVs are starting to disrupt the laggard, legacy auto OEMs and Big Oil, RE is even further along in disrupting the in many ways equally laggard, legacy central utilities who simply won’t be able to compete on costs with localized RE generation.

    In the not distant future local RE plus storage will start making the idea of a widespread grid less and less important as electricity will come more and more to operate in microgrids of various sizes that will be connected like mesh networks.

    FAR more survivable and less costly then building hugely expensive new transmission lines that inflates your electricity bill like costly new centralized power plants do.

    It is a transition and it will take decades but it will certainly be for the better of societies and the environment both.

    The Koch Roaches and others are and will continue to try and slow it down by buying politicians/laws and their Party but lower costs and local control will always win in the end.

  16. Craig says:

    Simple go solar OFF GRID tell the utility to come get there meter and charge you car off that.

  17. TheWay says:

    By killing TOU rates, they are inadvertently leading to their own downfall faster. Because it means the average cost of electricity will go up, and in that sense the economics of going with larger solar + battery becomes more cost competitive.

    Keep digging your own graves.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      You don’t understand that the demand charges are also a back door method of forcing economical defacto ‘time of use’.

      IN other words, to lower their demand charges, people on their own will use more electricity during slack times.

      As far as Chris Woodward’s article here, besides describing a bit what Demand Charges do, I don’t quite see the point being made.

      Because, Mr. Woodward seemingly does not see that Demand Charges being implemented modify customer behavior to proper ‘time-of-use’ operation, even though there is no longer an explicit utility schedule for it.

  18. Dan says:

    America can generate more electricity than it ever needed by wind and solar farms along. The only use left for oil is refinery byproduct and strategic oil reserves for war machines. Now even war machines use the electricity generated by mini nuclear generators to power rail guns, laser guns. Those byproducts from oil refinery is not good for human bodies anyway, the only use is cheap plastics.

    1. TheWay says:

      In US, oil makes up only 1% of the electric grid. Only ones using oil is mostly islands like hawaii which is already going solar + battery as it is cheaper.

      And once hemp is not banned anymore, we can get back to making plastics from that instead of oil.

  19. Dan says:

    Funny thing is people treat electricity as their rights but not healthcare! Healthcare oligopoly complex screw you much more than utilities!

    1. Dan says:

      Utilities companies are more like grocery stores making pennies on the dollar. It’s regulated by government, treated as a basic necessity unlike healthcare.

  20. Dan says:

    What do you get in return for paying health insurance companies $6k a year? Nada! You have to pay the first $6K out of pocket deductible cost in addition to the $6K health tax levied on you! That’s $12K before the insurance kicking in to cover 60% cost. Average household is not going to pay $1K a month for electricity! You guys are looking for the wrong target to reign in your cost!

  21. Lil Sparky says:

    Does the author of this article actually live in MA?

    The MA residential time of day metering gave the customer a very large increase in daytime electric rate in exchange for a decrease in night rate. It made sense for very few customers. The intent was to give customers an incentive to use big loads like clothes dryer or oven or BEV charging off peak. The reduction in night time rate was small enough that it didn’t even make sense for BEV users unless they were high mileage drivers. The bigger effect was allowing home solar customers to charge back to the utility using net metering at an inflated rate and then buy back at night at a reduced rate. The utility very high daytime rate backfired when home solar took off.

    I haven’t seen the proposed peak demand pricing but it might mean not charging the car while running the clothes dryer and also cooking a turkey in the oven. I only have 100A service and have never popped the main breaker so it is safe to say we have never done that. Even if the threshold was lower this is nothing a powerwall couldn’t fix if programmed to do so. And those keep dropping in price.

  22. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

    With demand charges any use below your peak demand is off-peak. We have a Volt, but our peak demand is the stove.

    If done properly, demand charges essentially replace TOU because as long as your charging is done off _your_ peak it doesn’t add to peak demand.

    This sets it up for EV. The potential negative is actually for solar, although it’s good for solar+battery.

  23. David Cary says:

    I lived with peak demand charges for about 5 years. It was part of a solar rebate deal.

    It doesn’t take hugely expensive equipment to manage demand. Once the charges are there, the industry will get on making cheap demand management. I had plans for some relays but never got around to it. It was easier to run the dryer at night.

    Here in NC, we have some basic demand management built by the utility companies. They give a discount for having the ability to cut your power for a few minutes. The hospitals also run their diesel backup generators when the grid is stressed. It isn’t that complicated.

    I paid $5 a kw peak in a month. If I worked at it, I could have that at 4 kw. The whole thing strongly favors gas dryers, hot water heaters and ovens. The car charging at night didn’t hit the demand charge as it was only effective during the day.

    If you have NG appliances, then your peak demand in the winter can be tiny. The summer is easy to regulate with some smart controllers.

    Demand costs are real. The right thing to do is have charges reflect costs. Logic wins in the long term.

  24. dan says:

    Massachusetts is a really bad example. There is a large overlap between greens and NIMBYs here to the point where even getting approval to build power lines to transport green energy is an ordeal. It is also the reason why electricity is so expensive here. It is not surprising that electric companies are teetering on the edge. They always are and there is perpetual underinvestment. I’m sure some of the reasons are cautionary tales for other states but many of the issues are unique local diseases.

  25. Lukon says:

    Isn’t the writing on the wall for electric utilities?
    As solar and battery prices fall, it becomes much more attractive to make and store your own power: cleaner, cheaper, more reliable power. How can utilities compete with that?

  26. ModernMarvelFan says:

    I guess there is a good reason to get the cars with slower chargers then… =)

    No more complain from Volt’s 3.6kW charger!

  27. Bill Howland says:

    from the article: “… A microwave and water heater’s needs could add up to 5,000 watts, before we turn on other household items.

    By reaching breakpoints a utility might decide, at say 15,000 or 25,000 watts, that all your monthly consumption can suddenly be charged a higher rate….”

    Those appliance figures are extremely conservative. The very smallest water heater and microwave might add up to only that (3800 and 1200 respectively).

    More realistic values, especially for upscale EV owners would be 5500 watts for the water heater and 1700 for the microwave – being 7200 watts total, and of course almost all electric clothes dryers use 6000 watts for a significant period of time per week, especially for larger families.

    The Instantaneous heater CRAZE has also migrated to electric versions – the popular models drawing a whopping 27 kw. In upscale neighborhoods, 300 and 400 ampere (rated 72 and 96 kw) electric services are much more common than previously. Two, Three or Four car garaged families with heavily driven Teslas could use 34 to 68 kw if charged at the same time – something that may need to be done if they are all high mileage per day.

    Demand charges in my area are implemented if the commercial customer draws over 2000 kwh / month over a 3 month time period. They are then billed immediately starting at the 2 kw mark for each additional kw at approximately $13/kw per month, considered somewhat lower than average for demand charges.

    The charges highly encourage businesses to decrease their peak ‘TAKE’, and use the energy at some other time during the day.

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