PSE gives credit for reducing energy consumption

"Some South Whidbey electricity customers were pleasantly surprised this month when their Puget Sound Energy bills gave them money back for reducing their power consumption. On Tuesday, PSE spokesman Karl Kirn said the company's Conservation Incentive Credit will show up on all Whidbey Island electric bills as the company tries to push energy conservation. Currently, customers throughout the PSE system are using an average of 7 percent less electricity now than they did at this time last year. Using that information, the company is giving its most conservation-minded customers - those who slash electricity consumption by more than 10 percent - a break on their bills.The conservation program, which gives electricity customers a 5 cent credit for every kilowatt hour of electricity they save over a 10-percent reduction for the same period the previous year, is the same discount being offered to mainland customers who are part of a pilot billing program. The conservation credits started in September as part of the 312,000-customer pilot program that charges PSE customers different electricity rates depending on when they use electricity throughout the day.This time-of-day metering is not possible on Whidbey Island. Customers in the pilot program have new, computerized electric meters that transmit electricity usage information to PSE several times each hour. But by using billing records, the extended conservation credit program is possible. PSE is in the process of swapping out Whidbey Island's old electric meters for the new ones starting in Oak Harbor, but it will take until the end of the year to replace the majority of the meters, Kirn said. At that time, all of PSE's customers may pay for electricity much like telephone customers pay for their long distance phone time - higher prices during peak hours and cheaper prices during off-peak times.The conservation credit program will be in effect until the end of 2001. Kirn said the company may reinstate the program in 2002 if it reduces electricity consumption significantly.Kirn said PSE is hoping state power regulators will allow the company to use time-of-day pricing on a permanent basis next year. "

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