Energy Action: Can Changing Electric Rate Plans Save You Money?

By Bruce Karney

PG&E’s residential customers have at least two choices of electric rate plans and you may be able to save money by switching plans.  PG&E will provide you with a free estimated rate analysis comparing your rate to alternatives.  To get it, call 800-743-5000 and press 0 to talk to an operator.  PG&E requires that you have received service during 3 winter months and 3 summer months.  The analysis will be mailed to you; there is no online tool.

The plan that most of us are on is called E-1.  It consists of 5 tiers (see diagram).  If you use less than your baseline amount each month you pay 11.5¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh).  The more you use, the higher the mar-ginal price.  Most Old Mountain View homeowners and condo owners use 100-200% of baseline.  Renters typically use 130% or less.

Time of Use Rates

If your average electric bill is less than $80/month, you don’t have air conditioning (or don’t use it much), and are seldom home on weekdays from 1 – 7 p.m., you can probably save money by switching to the E-6 Time of Use (TOU) rate plan.

The details of this plan are complex, but the basic difference is that rates depand on how much juice you use and what time of day you use it.  During 80% of the hours of the year E-6 rates are lower than E-1. Even in summer E-6 rates are usually less than E-1, but not on weekdays from 1-7 p.m. Those are peak hours.

If you switch to TOU you’ll get a free new digital meter.  You must remain on the  plan for 12 months.

You can find rate details online at

OMVNA resident Max Hauser says “I used this option at my home in Sunnyvale.  Although it charged something like 3x as much for peak as for off-peak energy, I was able to cut my bill considerably just by running appliances at off-peak hours whenever possible — easy to do.”


Medical Baseline

Qualified households can get additional quantities of energy at the lowest (baseline) price. To qualify for Medical Baseline, a doctor must certify that someone in your home has one of these conditions:

  • Dependent on life-support equipment while at home.
  • A paraplegic or multiple sclerosis patient with special heating and/or cooling needs.
  • A scleroderma patient with special heating needs.
  • A life-threatening illness or compromised immune system with special heating and/or cooling requirements to sustain the patient’s life or prevent deterioration of the patient’s medical condition.

If you meet one of these criteria and don’t yet have Medical Baseline rates, call PG&E to find out what paperwork you and your doctor will need to send in.

CARE Rates for Low Income

If your income is low, you can save 20%-60% by calling PG&E and requesting the EL-1 rate plan.  The CARE Program provides a monthly discount on energy bills for income-qualified households. Qualifications are based on the number of persons in your home and household income.

To determine if you are eligible for the CARE plan:

  1. Determine how many people live in your home more than 50 percent of the time.
  2. Combine all household members’ incomes from all sources to find household gross annual income.
  3. Compare household gross income to the maximum shown in the table below. If it’s less than the maximum, you are eligible for the CARE rates.  Call PG&E at 800-743-5000 to enroll.
# in Home # in home Maximum Income
1 or 2 $30,500
3 $35,800
4 $43,200
5 $50,600
6 $58,000
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