About 62,000 customers have signed up for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.'s SmartHours program that sets different electricity prices for peak times during summer months.
The program, in its second full year, will start again Monday with its summer prices. OG&E enrolled about 40,000 customers in SmartHours last year. The utility said those customers saved an average of $200 from their bills the previous year.
Regular OG&E residential customers pay about 10 cents per kilowatt hour in the peak summer months from June to the end of September. SmartHours customers will pay 5 cents per kilowatt hour anytime except from 2 to 7 p.m. on weekdays. During those peak times on weekdays, prices range from 5 cents up to 44 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on the total electricity demand on OG&E's system.
SmartHours is part of OG&E's plan to delay building a new power plant until at least 2020. Customers get free installation of a programmable thermostat that displays information about peak demand times and the price of electricity during those periods.
To save money, customers can delay or postpone using large appliances such as washers, dryers and dishwashers during peak times. They also can precool their house by lowering the thermostat in the hours leading up to 2 p.m., and then turn the air conditioning up during peak hours to save money.
Angela Nichols, director of marketing for OG&E, said customers can enroll SmartHours throughout the year. Regular customers who reduce usage during peak summer times won't be able to maximize their savings in the same way as SmartHours customers, she said.
In customer surveys, SmartHours participants said they liked the program's savings and flexibility. Last year, just 200 customers dropped out of the program, Nichols said. Others who considered dropping the program were convinced to stay after learning more about a price guarantee for the first year and different strategies to bridge the comfort and savings gap.
“Their primary reason to sign up is to save money and energy,” Nichols said. “I think a myth of SmartHours is that you have to make a lot of changes. It really depends on how much savings you want. Even small changes can add up. We've had customers save money by keeping their AC the same but not running the dishwasher or washing machine (at peak times).”
Nichols said customers remain in control of their programmable thermostat at all times. The thermostat sends price signals reminding customers of the different rates during peak times. Those alerts, and notifications of pricing for the next day, also can be sent via email, phone or text alerts.