The Turlock Irrigation District could soon introduce two new rate structures, intended to entice more big businesses to locate in Turlock and reduce bills for electric car owners.
A new economic development discount would give large users discounted electrical rates for their first three years of operations. At the expense of that temporary cost, the district could create more long-term business, it believes.
“We've got to have a discount,” TID Director Rob Santos said. “It just makes sense. We've got to have a loss leader to get them in the door.”
To qualify, a business would be required to use at least 500 kilowatts of electricity at a new site or an expansion of their existing site, and commit to do business for at least five years. In exchange, the business would receive a 40 percent discount on their demand and environmental charges for the first year, declining to 20 percent in year two and 10 percent in year three. The discount would come only in those two categories, as TID already has the income stream to cover costs in those areas.
The economic development discount would keep TID rates below those offered by nearby competitors like the Modesto Irrigation District, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and Pacific Gas and Electric. Those competitors all offer similar discounts.
The cheaper rates could help to create new jobs in Turlock, TID staff said. A new cheese processing plant, for instance, could bring nearly 800 jobs to town when considering indirect economic effects.
Businesses often ask about such discounts when they consider locating in Turlock, TID staff said. But it remains to be seen how much those discounts factor into the a final decision on locating a business.
“Nobody knows except for the business,” TID Director Joe Alamo said.
TID currently serves about 100 customers that could have qualified for the discount.
A second discussed rate change would create a new way to bill TID customers who own a plug-in electric car.
Those customers currently end up paying the district's most expensive rates for electricity to charge their cars, as the added demand of an electric car almost inevitably bumps customers into the highest tier.
Though the district must still recover costs for electricity, a new rate structure could offer an alternative to electric car owners: time-of-use billing. Those car owners would pay less for electricity used during off-peak times – 9 p.m. through 12 noon – letting them charge cars at night when electricity is cheaper. Off-peak energy costs the district between 47 and 45 percent less than on-peak energy.
The rate would save the average electric car owner about 5 percent on their electricity bills, TID staff said. The special rate would not be available to district customers who do not own electric cars.
Currently, only 33 TID customers have been verified as owning an electric car. But given the statewide surge in electric car sales, it only makes sense to tackle the problem now, according to Chris Poley, TID Utility Rate Analyst.
“The numbers are unmistakeable,” Poley said. “Electric vehicle sales are on the rise. … We will end up having to face this issue at some point in time.”
Both rates would be termed “experimental programs,” and could be revoked at any time.
Three other minor changes to TID rates were also discussed Tuesday, but neither will increase rates for existing users.
One shift would change how almond and walnut hullers with large solar installations are credited for their electricity generation. Currently, a loophole in the rules could allow hullers to receive massive credits during the off-season when their plants sit idle. That loophole would be removed.
Another shift would benefit customers who sign up for TID service near the end of a billing cycle. Currently, those customers could be billed for the district's flat monthly minimum charge for only a few days of service. Following the change, new customers would not be billed for the monthly minimum service charge if they sign up for service within 10 days of their first billing cycle.
The final change would alter how companies which generate the majority of their own power are billed. Those customers currently pay TID a fixed charge for the capacity of electricity that the district must provide should their generators fail, plus fees for the electricity used.
TID initially drafted that structure assuming that private generators would experience similar up-time to district power plants, but that has not been the case. Instead, self-generating customers rely on TID for electricity almost every month, making the capacity charge redundant. That capacity charge would be dropped under the proposal.