Many terms in the energy industry can be confusing. When choosing the right energy plan for your home or business, you may feel overwhelmed by the options and decisions presented to you. To help ease the process, we’re here to explain what it means to be an interruptible customer and how it affects you.
What is an Interruptible Customer?
If your home or business relies on natural gas to fuel its operations, you’re probably used to having access to available energy whenever needed. However, you may not be aware there are two types of service plans: firm and interruptible.
A firm or uninterruptible plan assures that you will have no interruptions (unless there are unforeseeable circumstances) to your natural gas access. This model is typically best for businesses that require constant, reliable fuel, such as hospitals or other care facilities.
An interruptible plan is a flexible energy arrangement where customers agree to have their natural gas service interrupted or curtailed during periods of high demand or low supply. Customers pay a lower price for their natural gas by agreeing for services to be occasionally interrupted. Typically these customers have a back up fuel source – such as propane or fuel oil – on hand, and the ability to quickly switch over when their utility interrupts natural gas service. Interruptible customers typically pay better rates for their gas usage because of this flexibility.
How Does It Work?
Being an interruptible customer doesn’t mean that your business will randomly not have access to natural gas. In some cases, your gas will not be shut off entirely. Interruptions typically occur when demand for natural gas is very high on your utility’s system – most often this occurs during spells of very cold weather.
If an interruptible event occurs, you will be asked to keep your gas usage at or below a certain threshold set by your utility, or to shut off your gas completely and switch to your backup fuel. If your usage exceeds the allocated amount, you’ll be subject to additional charges from your utility.
When and How Often Do Interruptions Happen?
While there’s no exact formula for when or how often an interruptible event will occur, some factors that can trigger an interruption. A dramatic change in temperature, i.e., frigid weather, can trigger an interruption due to higher levels of gas being used for heating. Other events, such as gas line damage or pipeline disruption, can also cause interruptions in service. During an average winter, you can typically expect one or two events per month.
There are usually limits to how often and how long an interruption can be called. The parameters of what defines an interruption, and how often or for how long it can be called should outlined in your utility’s tariffs which are posted publicly.
How Long Do Interruptions Last?
Interruptions can vary from a few hours to a few days, depending on what triggered the event. In the event of an interruption, your utility will communicate how long the event is expected to last. Again, the rules surrounding this can be found in your utility’s tariff.
Who is Eligible?
The main advantage to being on an interruptible rate class is that your base rate for gas service will tend to be lower. But this arrangement clearly won’t work for everyone. The best candidates for an interruptible rate class tend to be larger production facilities that have the ability to quickly switch over to a back up fuel when necessary. Each utility’s interruptible plans vary, and each will have clear rules as to which types of facilities qualify for this program.
If you have additional questions about being an interruptible customer, we’re here to answer them. Contact the experts at UGI Energy Services today!