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updated: 11/21/2012 4:54 PM

Naperville electric rates, user options to increase

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Editor's note: This story was updated to change the time of off-peak hours, which extend to 11:59 a.m. instead of 11 p.m.

Naperville electric customers can expect a 2 percent rate increase for each of the next three years. And those increases are expected to accompany new user functions.

Electric department Director Mark Curran Tuesday introduced the new rate structure to city council members who are likely to approve the measure in time for the new rates and features to go into effect on May 1.

The feature Curran expects to be most popular among customers, the "Time of Use," he said, will be vastly improved, thanks to the city's Smart Grid Initiative.

The $22 million meter program is designed to upgrade the city's $360 million electric network to provide more efficient, cost-effective and reliable service to customers and provide them with more information on their energy use.

The "Time of Use" feature will allow participating customers to personalize their consumption by shifting high energy uses, such as laundry, air conditioning and charging of electric vehicles to the less-expensive, off-peak hours of 9 p.m. to 11:59 a.m. the following morning.

"Two percent isn't a monster increase, right?" Curran asked. "The thing is, we're getting the base set for the long-term to where if energy prices shoot up across the board, we'll have more tools in place and more rate structures to allow customers to make more choices about how they use their energy and potentially save some dollars."

Currently the average resident pays a $92 electric bill which Curran estimated would decrease by $1 for customers who switch to the new plan and make no changes. Those who alter their use are expected to save more.

"If they decide to turn off some additional lights, change their laundry time from when they normally do it in that afternoon period, they'd be able to save a few dollars," Curran said. "And that's OK with us because we're just passing on the savings we would have had to pay to the (Illinois Municipal Electric Agency) so it's keeping the money in the pockets of the consumers."

The city also expects to roll out a "Demand Response Initiative" that would allow the customer or the city to pick certain times of the day when energy consumption can be reduced. Those who choose this option would, most likely, turn over control of their thermostat to the city for as much as 15 hours a week and receive a $24 annual credit. During those predetermined times, the city would be able to remotely access the thermostat and adjust it down by three to five degrees.

Curran expects the latter option to be less popular initially but hopes it picks up steam as more savings are realized.

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