Home » STL Region » Recent Articles:

Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers

April 28, 2021 Environment, Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers

Recently we received a flyer from electric utility Ameren Missouri notifying us that our meter will be changed to a smart meter within the coming months.

I soon began digging into Ameren’s website to learn more detail:

Smart meters enable wireless, two-way communication that will allow us to pinpoint and solve outages sooner and provide near-real-time energy usage information to help customers better manage their energy habits and potentially save on their bill. The meters also enable us to offer a suite of new time of use rate options that give customers the power to choose a rate that fits their lifestyle. Customers will have more convenience, choice and control. (Ameren)

Watch brief Ameren video here.

In my 30+ years in St. Louis my electric rates have always been the same regardless of when I/we used electricity, but I’m looking forward to having the option to pick a plan to potentially save money:

Customers with an upgraded smart meter can choose from a suite of rate options including our new time of use (TOU) rates. TOU rates offer the opportunity to save on your bill if you can shift your energy usage to off-peak hours.

This meter change applies to all Ameren Missouri customers, the rollout is apparently about 20% complete. The following map shows when customers can expect their meter to be changed.

Click on map to open on Ameren’s website, you can search for your address to see the appropriate day your meter is scheduled to be changed. Ours is June 3, 2021.

I put in a few addresses like previous residences, friends, etc. One friend in St. Charles already has a new smart meter, but no new time of use reporting yet.  I had a video meeting with Steve Willis, Ameren Missouri Director of Rates and Analysis,  to learn more about this. Next month they’ll have a portal for smart meter customers to view detailed usage information. After a few months of use they’ll suggest which plan is best.

The following are the new Time of Use rate plans, based on currently approved rates. Summer rates are four months June-September, winter is the other 8 months. Generally the mid-peak & peak rates apply only to Monday-Friday, except major holidays.

Anytime is what we’ve always had, the rate is unchanged regardless of the time of day used.

So now here are the plans that can potentially save money compared to Anytime. I say potentially because if you use air conditioning, dryer, etc during peak rates your bill could be higher than on the Anytime plan.

The Evening/Morning Savers plan is only a slight variation from the Anytime plan. A slight reward for shifting some use from day to night.

The above plan is to begin to get customers to reduce their energy use during peak periods.

 

Now we see a greater difference between peak and off-peak, but the peak period is very long.

Now we get 3 tiers weekdays, 2 tiers on weekends.

And finally the biggest potential savings, but with a catch. Both summer & winter include a demand charge per billing cycle, based on the highest use 6am-10pm any day in the period.

For years I’ve been working to reduce our carbon footprint, including a reduction in energy use. We signed up for Arcadia a couple of years ago so 50% of our electric is wind credits.  Since we keep our air conditioning at 77° in the summer I never worried about using power during peak demand times. For over a year we’ve been on Ameren’s Peak Time Savings plan — this allows Ameren and our thermostat provider to briefly take control of our thermostat to reduce demand at critical times. They’ve never had to adjust our settings.

I’ve started prepping for the change to Time of Use rates by adjusting the schedule on our smart thermostat (Ecobee 3), my goal is for the Ultimate Savers plan to be our best bet. Since we’re still in the winter rate months until June 1st our HVAC is set so it’s unlikely to come on between 6am-8am and 6pm-8pm Monday-Friday. I lowered the lowest setting from 66° to 45°, and increased the maximum from 77° to 80°. It has been very mild so it hasn’t been an issue, not sure how well it would’ve gone in January & February when we had single digit temperatures outside.

In the summer rate months (June-September) I’ll adjust our air conditioning to come on less frequently during the 3pm-7pm peak period. This four hour period will be harder than the four hours in the winter, split into morning and evening. I’m going to contact Ecobee to ask them to add the ability to have summer & winter schedules to save having to make changes twice per year.

We’ve been using the dishwasher delay or just starting ours after 10pm. I’ve avoided using the dryer in the 6am-8am peak period, though one morning I forgot and started it during the peak period. My power wheelchair charger has been on a smart plug for years, coming on after midnight.

Part of me wants to change to a saver plan immediately after our smart meter is installed in early June, but intellectually I know I should wait until I can see my actual use before making the billing change.

— Steve Patterson

 

Auto-Centric Pandemic, Vaccine Site Adjacent To Light Rail Station Didn’t Mention Using Transit

March 25, 2021 Central West End, Featured, Public Transit, STL Region, Transportation Comments Off on Auto-Centric Pandemic, Vaccine Site Adjacent To Light Rail Station Didn’t Mention Using Transit

The previous 12 months have highlighted how auto-centric the United States is. So far during this pandemic we’ve seen drive through food banks, and COVID-19 testing. Each with cars backed up for miles. To keep the cars on the road there were also lines at licensing offices.

From May 28, 2020:

On Friday, May 29 CVS Health will open 22 new COVID-19 drive-thru test sites across Missouri, including locations in St. Louis.

CVS Health expects to have up to 1,000 locations across the country offering this service by the end of May.

The testing will be by appointment only. You won’t go into the store, but sit in your car and administer the test. (Fox2)

From June 11, 2020:

Many St. Louis-area residents endured long lines and waiting times at licensing offices Thursday, which recently re-opened due to COVID-19 worries.

Thursday, a News 4 crew found some people who waited several hours at two licensing offices in west St. Louis County, where only a few people are allowed inside at one time to due to COVID-19 restrictions. (KMOV)

From November 25, 2020:

From California to New York, pictures have emerged of thousands of people waiting to receive groceries from their local food banks ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s one side effect that has cropped up as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to sweep the nation. Experts say the problem is rooted in high unemployment and low cash flow. (CNBC)

So it was no surprise when it came time for vaccinations that many sites weren’t accessible by foot or public transit. As with food & testing, people in their cars were backed up for miles to get a shot.

Last Thursday:

Traffic was backed up for more than a mile in both directions entering the county’s drive-thru mass vaccination site. The event, put on by the St. Charles County Health Department with support from the Missouri National Guard, was expected to vaccinate 4,000 people by the time it wrapped up Thursday evening. (KMOV)

Monday I got my first shot. I’d been on a waiting list at BJC only, as I knew I’d be able to take transit. Many people signed up for multiple lists with the expectation they’ll drive wherever they need to.

Valet parking makes sense, especially for those who can’t walk far.

I was given a choice of vaccination sites, but I picked the 4353 Clayton location because I knew it was adjacent to the Cortex MetroLink station. The instructions from BJC, however, didn’t mention transit at all.

  • Due to social distancing restrictions, do not arrive before your scheduled time.
    • If you arrive earlier, please remain in your vehicle until it’s time to enter the building.
  • Please park in the lot at the front of the building, labeled “30 minute visitor,” or the lot west of the building, labeled “2 hour visitor.”
    • Free valet parking is also available at the front of the building.
    • Click here for a parking map.

Despite my criticism of their lack of mentioning transit, the entire process was very well orchestrated. Outside they had signs & people to direct drivers. At the building they had people stationed at every step to keep the flow going. I was in and out in under a half hour!

– Steve Patterson

 

Pandemic St. Louis Style: Policy Fragmentation & Cognitive Dissonance

November 28, 2020 Featured, Metro East, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Retail, St. Charles County, St. Louis County, STL Region Comments Off on Pandemic St. Louis Style: Policy Fragmentation & Cognitive Dissonance

Early this week the KMOV News (CBS/4.1) had a story on the Jefferson County Health Department approving a mask mandate — and the upset group protesting outside. The very next story was the St. Louis Area Task Force saying hospital beds, including ICU, beds were filling up with COVID-19 patients.

People were protesting wearing masks in public while area hospitals are announcing they’re filling up quickly. There’s a term for this: cognitive dissonance.

The mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses in people is relieved by one of several defensive maneuvers: they reject, explain away, or avoid the new information; persuade themselves that no conflict really exists; reconcile the differences; or resort to any other defensive means of preserving stability or order in their conceptions of the world and of themselves. The concept was developed in the 1950s by American psychologist Leon Festinger and became a major point of discussion and research. (Britannica)

Metro requires riders to wear masks on buses and trains. Metro doesn’t serve Jefferson or St. Charles counties.

How does this relate to masks?

Because of the intense polarization in our country, a great many Americans now see the life-and-death decisions of the coronavirus as political choices rather than medical ones. In the absence of a unifying narrative and competent national leadership, Americans have to choose whom to believe as they make decisions about how to live: the scientists and the public-health experts, whose advice will necessarily change as they learn more about the virus, treatment, and risks? Or President Donald Trump and his acolytes, who suggest that masks and social distancing are unnecessary or “optional”? (The Atlantic)

I don’t like wearing masks, but it’s the right thing to do around anyone other than my husband. The worst days are when I have treatment at Siteman Cancer Center, my mask is on for hours.

Then on Wednesday I saw a news story at Lambert airport on holiday. An airport spokesperson was explaining how everyone inside the terminal had to wear a mask — except she was inside the terminal and not wearing a mask! Two different travelers inside the terminal, both with masks, said they weren’t concerned because they were taking precautions — but their nostrils were visible!

My mom was a waitress for many years, so I feel for food service employees and restaurant owners. A recent story showed an owner upset at recent St. County restrictions prohibiting indoor dining. They argued it was unfair, if people could go into Target & shop they should be able to dine in. Uh, except that shoppers have to keep their masks on in retail stores — inside bars & restaurants the masks come off after being seated. Apples to oranges.

As I was writing this yesterday I saw a story on dine in supporters in St. Louis County. I wish as much effort was put into improving the carryout experience (ordering & packaging).

We’re back to limits on items because some placed their own important over that of the community.

A lot of this cognitive dissonance is due to the vastly different pandemic policies in different jurisdictions in the region. At least the Illinois side of the region has one uniform policy imposed by Governor Pritzker.  Here in Missourah Gov Parson has taken a hands-off approach, resulting in an infection rate double that of Illinois.   As a result each county has to go at it alone even though residents frequently cross over borders. Other than the hospital’s pandemic task force we have no regional leadership.

Our hospitals are full and their workers are exhausted. All because people aren’t willing to wear a mask in public or eat their restaurant dinner at home.

– Steve Patterson

 

Completed The 2020 Census Online Yet?

April 22, 2020 Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Completed The 2020 Census Online Yet?

Many of you have been at home for a month. Getting bored? If you haven’t done so already, you could complete the 2020 Census — a count of everyone on April 1st.

The time is now. Help shape your future, and your community’s future, by responding to the 2020 Census.

Most households received their invitation to respond to the 2020 Census between March 12 – 20. These official Census Bureau mailings will include detailed information and a Census ID for completing the Census online.

In addition to an invitation to respond, some households will receive a paper questionnaire (sometimes known as the census form). You do not need to wait for your paper questionnaire to respond to the Census. (2020Census.Gov)

It only takes a few minutes to complete online. Phone & mail are also options.

— Steve Patterson

 

Shutting Down To Save Lives

March 13, 2020 Featured, Popular Culture, STL Region Comments Off on Shutting Down To Save Lives

The St. Louis region still only has one confirmed case of COVID-19, but to contain it from spreading some big decisions have been made — both nationally & locally. Flights from Europe cancelled for at least 30 days, major sports postponed, Broadway shows shuttered, music tours cancelled. College classes switching to online only.

Enterprise Center was to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA had said the March Madness tournament initially would be played without fans, but yesterday made the decision to cancel completely. Both local St. Patrick’s  Day Parades have been postponed.

Some had been upset about lost revenue by not having spectators at restaurants and booking hotel rooms by the NCAA decision to not have fans, now we won’t have players, coaches, family, etc.

Sometimes the right decision means saying no to short-term profits.  This also impacts workers who need their paychecks to pay rent/mortgage and other bills.

We can look back to St. Louis 102 years ago to see how effective such drastic actions are.

When the influenza epidemic of 1918 infected a quarter of the U.S. population, killing tens of millions of people, seemingly small choices made the difference between life and death.

As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28th; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died.

In St. Louis, a public health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)

In the coming days, thousands of people across the country will face the choice between becoming a Wilmer Krusen or a Max Starkloff.” (The Atlantic)

Philadelphia did have twice the population of St.Louis, but also more than twice the land area. It was a wise decision to shut everything down. In doing so many lives were saved.

It’s impossible to know how many more would’ve died had the city not been shut down temporarily. There will, hopefully, be a point where our lives can return to normal.

Will normal be different than what we knew prior to COVID-19?  Impossible to say at this point. However, it is possible to see businesses learning how to live without expensive conferences & expos.

Over the last 20 years, the conference and convention industry has grown rapidly as the global economy has expanded.

In 2017, about $1 trillion was spent worldwide on business events, including funds to plan and produce the events and related travel, according to an Events Industry Council report. North America alone accounted for $381 billion.

Convention centers and similar facilities rely on these events to survive, often booking major ones years in advance. (LA Times)

Right now we’re looking at an expensive expansion of our downtown convention center. Do we move forward or put it on hold to see what the  convention business will look like a year from now?

Will Coronavirus influence the design of the upcoming MLS stadium? More hand-washing stations?

A lot to think about, especially if you’re at home for days.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Advertisement



[custom-facebook-feed]

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe