This author grew up in New Jersey and enjoys regular visits back to the homeland. When I'm home, I often ask friends and family to give me copies of their utility bills. In this post, we are going to dissect a bill from Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L).
The bill shown below is from the billing cycle that ran from May through June 2013. This is an interesting billing cycle because the summer rates for Rate RS (Residential Service) begin on June 1st. As a result, the billed usage must be apportioned between the summer and non-summer rates. The total usage for the billing cycle was 1,230 kWh and the billing cycle ran for 30 days (May 14 - Jun 12). This account is metered by a traditional electro-mechanical meter, so exact usage apportionment is impossible. Since 12 days (12/30 = 40%) of the billing cycle fell in June, 40% of the usage, or 492 kWh (1,230 * 40% = 492) is allocated to June and billed at the June rates.
The second red box highlights the supply charges on the bill. All four of the New Jersey Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) refer to supply charges as Basic Generation Service or BGS. Since New Jersey is a deregulated state, consumers have the option to take electric service from either their utility or from a competitive electric supplier. Remember, in deregulated states the supply charges on the bill are driven by market forces and the cost of fuels used to generate electricity. All the NJ IOUs participate in a staggered auction process where the BGS supply charges on the current bill represent the average cost of electricity procured over the last three years. The BGS auction process leads to more stable costs. In the bill shown above, the consumer has elected to stay with JCP&L for supply and has not chosen a competitive electric supplier.
If this customer or anyone else served by JCP&L was to evaluate an offer for competitive supply, they would need to calculate their Price to Compare (PTC). This can be done by summing the line item charges in the BGS section and dividing by the number of kWhs in the billing cycle to determine the $/kWh unit cost. For those who really want to do their due diligence, they could find JCP&L's currently effective rate tariff and look up Sheet 36 where the generation portion of BGS charges for the RS rate are detailed. In addition, the customer would need to calculate the transmission portion of BGS rates which are found by summing the transmission charge located in the RS rate (Tariff Sheet 3, BGS line 2) and the transmission portion of BGS rates detailed in Tariff Sheet 36A (requires summing ~ 9 charges). The BGS rate and transmission charges should be summed to determine the exact PTC in $/kWh. This number may not perfectly match the billed value on the JCP&L invoice because JCP&L employs a tracking mechanism called the BGS reconciliation charge (found at bottom of Tariff Sheet 36A) where over/under recoveries of actual supply costs are credited/debited to consumers on a lagging basis.
The distribution charges of JCP&L rate RS have some complexity in them as well. In June - Sept, there is a tiered rate system where usage over 600 kWhs is billed at a higher rate than the first 600 kWh. During Oct - May, all usage is billed at a flat rate. Tariff Sheet 4 includes several additional smaller charges that comprise the distribution portion of Rate RS. Although the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Recovery Rider is not included in Tariff Sheet 4, it is incorporated by reference.
Many people look at their NJ electric bills and wonder where the sales tax is. Don't worry it's there. In NJ, the utilities and competitive energy suppliers are obligated to include 7% NJ Sales & Use Tax in their charges and not as a separate line item.
Above the charges included in the "Current Consumption Bill Charges" section are charge for a service called "PowerGuard." Note that there are four line items associated with this service and total charges add up to $7.10 (~$85/yr). I was unfamiliar with this service, but found it on Tariff Sheets 52-53. PowerGuard is part of a legacy program by JCP&L called "Consumer Electronics Protection Service" where consumers can get surge suppression devices installed at the meter socket and at outlets. This rate has been closed to new entrants since 1999 and my presumption is that this customer has been paying these charges for at least 14 years without consideration as to whether this service or all of the associated devices are still needed.
The JCP&L invoice, like all First Energy company invoices, includes a usage summary at the bottom left portion of the bill. This is a handy little graphic to help consumers and service providers understand annual usage patterns. A common complaint among many consumers deals with estimated meter reads. Reading electro-mechanical meters is expensive and JCP&L, like many other utilities, estimates approximately 4 readings per year to save on meter reading costs (e.g., labor, vehicle miles, etc.). The result can be invoices that do not match actual usage and are trued up in subsequent billing periods. The graph below shows the usage history as well as an A to designate Actual meter reads or an E to denote Estimated meter reads.
Hopefully you enjoyed this walk through a JCP&L bill and if your company needs rate and tariff expertise, please give us a call. We'd love to talk with you.
UPDATE - FEB 21, 2014 - After writing this blog post, I wrote JCP&L on behalf of this customer asking for them to be removed from Consumer Electronics Protection Service (see PowerGuard charges on bill). In the next billing cycle, the charges were discontinued. Although the customer offered to return all of the devices, surprisingly JCP&L did not want to receive 16 year old surge suppressors in the mail.