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Your current National MA electric rates, and How your electric bill works

Electric bills are usually complicated and mysterious. While the cost of apples (for example) is the number of apples times the price per apple, utilities slice and dice their energy "apples" (or units) in a variety of confusing ways.

This article's purpose is to demystify your electric bill, putting you in a better position to take control and cut it.

This article is specific to the Massachusetts utility National MA.

How does my rate plan work?

Your electric bill has two parts:

  1. A fixed monthly charge.
  2. An energy charge, a charge per unit of energy used.

The fixed monthly charge covers National MA expenses that are not directly related to your energy use. Examples are National MA's phone-support staff, and the hold music you hear while waiting for phone support. As the name suggests, the fixed charge does not change month by month. It's not a big charge ($5.50/month) compared to the energy charge.

What's the energy unit that National MA uses? Like other U.S. utilities, they charge per "kilowatt-hour", abbreviated as "kWh". Understanding kilowatt hours will help you cut your electric bill.

 

Let's break it down with the classic light bulb example:

100 light bulbs x 10 watts per light bulb = 1,000 watts.
A "kilo" is a thousand, so 1,000 watts = 1 kilowatt.
If the light bulbs are left on for 1 hour, that's 1 kilowatt x 1 hour = 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh).

1 kilowatt x 1 hour = 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh)

Let's make sure you got that.

 

How many kilowatt-hours are used if you leave 300 10-watt light bulbs on for an hour? ...You're right!

3 kilowatt-hours (300 bulbs x 10 watts = 3,000 watts / 1,000 = 3 kilowatts.
Left on over 1 hour = 3 kilowatt-hours).

300 light bulbs 3 kilowatst x 1 hour = 3 kilowatt-hour (kWh)

Now let's talk money.

 

How much does National MA charge to keep these 100 light bulbs on for an hour?

Under the standard rate plan (R-1), they charge 22¢ per kWh on average.
1 kWh x 22¢ per kWh = 22¢.
If the 100 light bulbs were kept on 24x7 for a month (720 hours straight), National MA would charge $158.40.

100 lightbulbs x 24/7 x 22 cents = $158.40

How much does a typical National MA customer pay per month?

A typical family in National MA territory (specifically in Worcester) uses 939 kWh per month on average (they'd get to the same total by keeping 129 10-watt light bulbs on 24x7). They pay $215 per month for those 939 kWh.

How do National MA rates compare to the national average?

National MA rates are a lot higher than the national average. The average National MA rate for a family with typical energy use is 23¢ per kWh (including the fixed charge). The average national residential rate is 13¢, according to the U.S. Energy Info. Admin.

Could we cut our bill just by switching to another rate plan?

National MA offers a "Time of Use" rate plan that you could voluntarily switch to. It might start saving you money immediately. With Time of Use, you pay a different rate depending on when you use energy over the course of a day. Time of use gives you more control over your electric bill.

The next article in this series will help you determine whether the Time-of-Use option is a better fit for your home.

What are my current National MA electric rates?

If you are on National MA's standard residential rate plan, here are the rates you currently pay:

Standard Plan's Rates:

Plan Name: Residential (R-1)
Last Update: May 1, 2018
Fixed Charge: Service Charge: $5.5
All Year Rate: $0.22

We're already on time of use, What are our current rates?

If you're already on National MA's optional Time-of-Use rate plan, here are the rates you currently pay:

Time-of-Use Plan's Rates:

Plan Name: Residential - Time of Use (R-4)
Last Update: May 1, 2018
Fixed Charge: Service Charge: $20
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.191
Peak: $0.296
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 8am, 9pm to midnight
Peak: 8am to 9pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: All hours
Peak:

How do I work out if I am on the cheapest National MA rate plan for my usage pattern?

To do an exact comparison on how much you would save from switching plans requires collecting your detailed usage data for the last 12 months. This is known as Interval Data and sometimes also called Green Button Data.

 

Interval Data
Green Button data

 

Interval or Green Button data is your electrical usage data for the last 12 months in one hour (or even shorter) intervals. This data is available from your utility provider.

What are the best ways to cut our energy bill?

We're glad you asked. Let's continue to the article: Three Best Ways to Cut Your National MA Electric Bill.