Some 18 months ago Puget Sound Energy introduced a time-of-use programme to encourage customers to use more electricity during off-peak periods – thereby helping to cut demand and reduce customers’ energy costs. The average residential time-of-use customers moved 14 kWh a month of consumption to off-peak time, between 5% and 6% of overall usage. Average savings amounted to 59 cents a month – and when the utility introduced a charge of $1 a month to cover administrative costs, TOU customers discovered they were actually paying more for their energy than flat rate customers.

Puget Sound TOU customers received the first usage summary in October, and since then have been opting to bail out of the programme at a rate of over 1,000 customers a day. The utility has asked state regulators for permission to end the programme, and has said it will refund customers the $1 dollar a month administration charge. Some 300,000 consumers were involved in the pilot project, which was due to come to an end in September 2003. State regulators are likely to agree to the early closure.