Utility provider Southern California Edison (SCE) is updating its “Time-of-Use” schedule, which determines the price business clients pay for electricity depending on the time of day. According to Beena Morar, a senior project manager with SCE’s business customer division, this adjustment was necessary because of changes in California’s energy sources.

“We have pretty aggressive state goals for increasing renewable energy in our portfolio. With this adoption, which is a good thing, we’ve adopted a lot more clean energy, and a lot of it is solar,” Morar said. “We have more energy available out of these renewable resources during the day and less when they’re not available, usually during the evening and nighttime.”

As a result, the utility has shifted its most expensive period for electricity usage to take place between 4-9 p.m., instead of the previous noon to 6 p.m. schedule. The timetable differs for agricultural and pumping businesses, such as irrigation and water suppliers, which will pay higher rates for their energy between 5-8 p.m. Many workers in these industries work outdoors, so SCE decided to offer an adjusted schedule that provides for more daylight working hours, reducing the risk of injuries due to limited visibility at night. “For safety reasons, we made that available in the evenings, so they’re not going out there at night,” Morar said.

Additionally, the utility provider is introducing Critical Peak Pricing (CPP), an optional program offering summer discounts on electricity to businesses that reduce energy usage during 12 CPP events, which are enacted when high demand is expected to put a strain on the power grid.

Programs like CPP are referred to as “demand response programs” by utilities. “The utility will provide some kind of incentive for customers reducing their usage during periods when there’s greatest demand on the grid,” Ron Gales, senior advisor of corporate communications at SCE, explained.

CPP events are most likely to occur during the summer, Morar said. “It can be year-round, but typically they occur during the hottest summer days; that’s just when the grid is constrained,” he explained. Customers are advised to check the contact information SCE has on file for them on the utility’s website to make sure CPP notifications are sent to their most current e-mail address or phone number.

Customers who find themselves faced with a larger bill at the end of their first year in the CPP program may make use of SCE’s bill protection offer. “If you are part of CPP, you try to participate during the events, and say you couldn’t reduce your usage enough and you end up with a higher bill at the end of 12 months – Edison will compensate you for that increased cost,” Morar explained.

The changes go into effect this month. Businesses will be automatically enrolled in the CPP program based on their billing cycle. Most large businesses already participate in the CPP program, Morar pointed out. “We’re now enrolling our smaller business customers as well as our agricultural and pumping customers.”