As more of us work from home during the COVID-19 emergency, we’re using more electricity. We have outlined cost-saving resources for San José residents to help protect against higher bills.
Finding the best rate plan for your household
Higher usage of electronics and appliances can lead to an increase in electricity bills. It may be a worthwhile exercise to use PG&E’s Rate Comparison Tool to assess the most cost-effective electricity rate plan for your household.
94% of SJCE residential customers are on tiered rate plans (e.g., E-1), where the price of electricity is based on how much is used. If a customer uses more than their allotted electricity allowance during the billing period, additional usage is charged at multiple, higher priced tiers.
The remaining 6% of residents are on time-of-use (TOU) plans, where the price of electricity is based on when it’s used. About 75% of San José residents are projected to save money on TOU plans compared to tiered plans. TOU plans better align customer pricing with the cost of procuring electricity. Higher cost, “peak” periods fall from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. when demand is high and less renewable energy is available.
Staying at home can present an opportunity to have more control over your electricity usage and bill. TOU rates may be a good option for those who can shift their appliance usage before 4 p.m. or after 9 p.m.
SJCE rate plan options mirror PG&E’s. You can compare your usage on different plans and choose a new rate plan at pge.com; PG&E will communicate your selection to us.
State-funded monthly discount programs
The California Alternate Rates for Energy Program (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA) are two State-funded programs that offer electricity bill discounts to income-qualified households. SJCE customers are eligible for these discount programs and must apply and reapply through PG&E, who administers CARE and FERA for Santa Clara County.
CARE customers receive a monthly discount of 30-35% on electricity and 20% on gas. In order to qualify, customers must meet income guidelines or be enrolled in public assistance programs. Customers must renew eligibility every two years or every four years if customer is on a fixed income.
FERA customers receive a monthly discount up to 18% on electricity only. This discount is specifically for households of three or more people who meet income guidelines. Customers must renew eligibility every two years.
Customers who have recently lost their jobs or are recently unemployed may qualify for CARE and FERA programs due to COVID-19.
Learn more about these discounts and how to apply on our Discount Programs webpage.
Federally funded one-time assistance
The Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is federally funded program administered by Sacred Heart Community Service in Santa Clara County. LIHEAP offers income-eligible households (renters and homeowners) a one-time credit to their utility bill, ranging from $173 to $289 per calendar year. This is a non-emergency program as it may take about 6-8 weeks for payment to be awarded. Customers must apply through Sacred Heart.
The amount of LIHEAP assistance is calculated based on household size, household income, and other factors considered including funding availability and the cost of energy within the county where the household resides. Families with elderly, disabled, or young residents in the dwelling are encouraged to apply.
Learn more about free energy efficiency programs by visiting San José Clean Energy’s Energy Savings webpage. This information is also available in Spanish and Vietnamese. Please note that some of these services, such as home audits and other activities that require home visits, may be temporarily halted as a response to the COVID-19 emergency and stay-at-home order.
There are certain steps that we can take to save energy and keep bills lower as we spend more time at home, such as:
- Using natural lighting by opening blinds or curtains to reduce the need to turn on lamps and overhead lighting.
- Plugging into a smart power strip so that unused devices don’t consume electricity.
- Wearing layers or using a blanket to reduce the need to use a heating system on colder days and evenings.
- On warmer days, opening windows and “pre-cooling” our homes during the cooler evenings and mornings to alleviate the need to use air conditioning.
- Air drying and washing only full loads of dishes and clothes to run large appliances less frequently.
For more energy-related resources and content, follow @SJCleanEnergy on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.