Friday, July 11, 2008

PULP's Con Edison Bill Estimator

Because of the lack of transparency of Con Edison prices, it is impractical if not impossible for most customers to wade through the calculations needed to identify what Con Edison would charge for a particular amount of electric service during a particular period.

There are several common situations where consumers want to know what Con Edison would charge during a particular period of time:
  • Customers lured into taking ESCO service by a small introductory discount may want to know if they are really saving money after the introductory period, or, as has frequently occurred, if they are paying more for ESCO utility service. The PSC has required utilities to spend more than $100 million over the past decade to stimulate "retail access," i.e., to urge customers to buy electricity and natural gas from ESCOs, without any way for customers to know how the ESCO price compares to the price of traditional full service. The PSC has also given Con Edison rate incentives that pay Con Edison more money the longer customers stay with ESCOs. Last year nearly 100,000 ESCO customers returned to Con Edison for full service, apparently dissatisfied with ESCO prices or service.
  • Tenants who pay their landlords for submetered electricity have a right under PSC regulations and orders not to be charged more by their landlords than they would pay if they were direct Con Edison customers, and may wish to check if they are being overcharged. Due to the lack of transparency of the rates charged by Con Edison, they have no simple way to make the price comparison. The PSC does not actively monitor submeterers' compliance with the price cap orders, or with requirements that submetered tenants be notified of the price limit and their opportunity to challenge a landlord's electric bill that exceeds the Con Edison price.
  • Customers taking service under time of day rates may want to see if they are saving money or paying more.
  • Customers considering the purchase of an energy saving appliance may want to know how much lower their Con Edison bills would be if they saved a certain amount of electricity.
  • Customers of other utilities thinking of moving to New York City could calculate how much more they will pay for electricity from Con Edison, which with its recent price increases may now have the highest rates in the continental United States, possibly surpassing Connecticut.
  • Customers of utilities other than Con Edison may be heartened by the sure knowledge that things could be worse.
It is not easy to find what Con Edison would charge.

The PSC publishes semi annual typical bill reports. These snapshots, however, do not reveal Con Edison's frequent major month to month changes in rates. Also, the reports are not timely issued, so the PSC probably will not publicly expose until September the magnitude of this month's Con Edison price spike. See Excelsior! Excelsior! Con Edison Rates Peak Again.

Comparing bills of a friend or neighbor is unlikely to work well because Con Edison has many meter reading and billing cycles within a month. Thus, a customer's regular bill issued, say, on the 20th of a month will be based on a hybrid of two months' different rates. The customer across the hall or across the street may be on a different billing cycle, so even if usage is similar, the charges will vary because one customer will have more days of her billing cycle at a higher rate than the other.

The components of a Con Edison bill are based on PSC-approved tariffs, which include the customer charge, other delivery rates, energy rates, surcharges, and taxes. The Public Service Commission (PSC) as part of its restructuring agenda issued an order in 2000 allowing Con Edison rates to change energy rates every month through a complex formula that depends on numerous factors and calculations, including a now 30-factor "Monthly Adjustment Clause." Also, delivery rates vary seasonally and by the amount of usage.

Con Edison does not publish its current total monthly rates in a simple format. Thus, it is necessary to make numerous calculations to derive the rates being charged at any given time, and to apply them to a particular amount of usage during a particular interval.

While representing submetered tenants in a large Bronx apartment building who complained about high bills from their landlords, PULP developed a Con Edison bill comparison calculator to estimate what Con Edison would charge.

We are now Beta testing PULP's Con Edison Residential Bill Estimator, which was launched today, and welcome you to try it.

This is PULP's best effort to estimate Con Edison bills. We think that the range of possible error is fairly small and the Estimator should closely approximate what Con Edison would charge for a given amount of usage over a specidfied period of days. Due to the complexity of Con Edison's rate structure and possibly different interpretation of the tariff requirements, however, we cannot guarantee its absolute accuracy, and so we urge you not to make major life decisions based on the results.

We would welcome any feedback you may have, and please let us know if you have problems using the calculator. You may contact us by email at

And, please consider making a donation to PULP.

1 comment:

David J said...

Nice post, thanks. Do you think there's an opportunity to for someone to make a new business that gives consumers useful and accurate information about the ESCOs? It could earn marketing fees from the ESCOs it steers customers to.