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Fort Collins will go to mandatory 'time-of-day pricing' for utilities next month

Posted at 7:06 PM, Sep 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-07 21:06:29-04

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Should what time of day you run your air conditioning or do a load of laundry impact the price? 

The city of Fort Collins thinks so.

Starting next month, the city will go to a mandatory "time-of-day pricing" for city-run electricity.

Think of it like the Uber for public utilities. Similar to how riders have to pay more to get a ride during peak or surge pricing hours.

Fort Collins will soon start charging different rates for electricity depending on when homeowner's crank the heat or run the dishwasher.

Lower energy consumption

The city said the idea is to lower overall energy use, while at the same time, have utility costs reflect what the city pays for electricity.

"We're letting them know this is when it's highest for us, this is when it's cheapest," said Lisa Rosintoski, the city's deputy utility director.

Fort Collins homeowners will have to pay three times more during peak hours: 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. from May to September and 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. October through April.

However, homeowners will pay 30 percent less for that same energy if they use it during off-peak hours.

"Helping customers understand that this is a revenue neutral rate structure," said Randy Reuscher, a Fort Collins rate analyst.

Homeowners ready to change habits

Long-time Fort Collins resident Nancy King's said it means she'll have to change a few habits.

"Instead of turning the dishwasher on before we go to bed, probably run it in the morning," she said.

Overall, King said she supports the idea but doesn't want a huge spike in her bill.

"Is it really going to be three times more? I didn't know that I knew it was going to be more but I didn't realize three times," said King.

Rosintoski said the biggest energy hogs are dryers, air conditioners, water heaters and dishwashers. Electric car chargers are also on the list.

City says it's not a rate increase

The city points to a pilot study it conducted with nearly 7,000 residents as proof most people's bills will go down not up with the change.  

"It showed a 2 percent reduction overall in bills," said Reuscher.

Those whose bills did go up, Reuscher said it increased by only a few dollars.

CSU graduate student Cherie Nelson said she's already on a tight budget, living in a high-cost city, and she worries even a slight increase could push her above her means.

Next steps for Foco utilities

The city has launched a website dedicated to the time of day rate change. There, homeowners can estimate their utility costs based on how much they use and when.

City officials also said they would review the program after a year under the new pricing structure to ensure it is working as intended.