PG&E will pay you to unplug during flex alerts

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury via KGO logo
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
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You have to sign up to qualify for the rebates, but it's free and there are no penalties if you don't save any energy. Only credits if you do.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The operators of California's power grid are continuing a statewide call to conserve electricity during this heat wave, or we might face rolling blackouts and a shortage of energy.

The call to conserve is totally voluntary, but now concern is so great, energy regulators are going beyond just asking: they're offering to pay California residents for not using electricity during the heat wave, when energy demand is greatest.

"If you're a residential consumer, you can actually get paid to unplug your devices and save energy when the grid is under stress like what we're experiencing now," said Sander Kushen of the California Public Interest Research Group.

California's public utilities are now offering a power saver rewards program. It gives credits to residents for reducing energy use on Flex Alert days.

RELATED: PG&E posts blocks that may be impacted by rolling outages

"The heat waves in California are only getting worse. This program, it's exactly an incentive program; incentivizes people to voluntarily reduce their energy usage," Kushen said.

Here's how it works.

PG&E will calculate how much energy you normally use during peak hours of 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

If you use less energy during those hours on Flex Alert days, PG&E will credit your account.

You get $2 for every kilowatt hour you save.

"That adds up to be a lot of money for consumers to actually save if they're able to reduce energy," said Kushen.

RELATED: Tracker shows how close we are to overloading the power grid

One kilowatt hour is the electricity used to power a thousand watts for one hour.

So, for example, if you normally run your clothes dryer for one hour, it would use up to five kilowatts.

If you avoided using it during a peak hour, you could get a credit of up to $10.

As for other appliances:

An electric stove also uses up to five kilowatts.

Same for a three-ton air conditioner.

A high powered electric car charger uses much more - up to twenty kilowatts, so unplugging during one peak hour could earn you $40.

RELATED: How to prepare for a PG&E power outage

"If you normally plug in your electric vehicle at that time or are blasting the AC in every room in the house or running the laundry, by moving those activities to another part of the day or just not doing them that's where we see the potential savings," said Kushen.

Credits are only offered on Flex Alert days - like today - not on "normal days." And they won't show up on your bill until next year.

But you must sign up first. It's free and there are no penalties if you don't save any energy - only credits if you do.

PG&E calculates your "normal" usage during peak hours based on the 10 weekdays just prior to each Flex Alert day, or five weekends if the alert falls on a weekend. PG&E will send you a statement showing its calculation of your usage, so you can see if you've fallen below that level.

More information on the Powersaver program here.

California Public Utilities Commission information on the power saver rewards here.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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