Friday, June 29, 2012

High heat raises power usage, cost could follow

By MADISON MATHEWS    Johnson City Press Staff Writer 

With temperatures expected to reach the upper 90s, many people are going to be running air conditioners and fans all weekend in an attempt to stay cool.     

That means power usage and the price of one’s electric bill could rise.    

The Johnson City Power Board’s peak usage is typically seen during the winter months, according to Chief Public Relations Officer Robert White.     

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which acts as the Power Board’s electric distributor, is a summer peak system, White said.    

The Power Board’s peak usage for the winter months has been set at 550 megawatts, while the summer peak currently sits at 502 megawatts.     

While those figures are fairly close, White said there’s a chance usage could reach the winter peak if temperatures rise as much as they’re expected to.     

“We’re becoming a much more balanced system in regard to winter and summer peaks, but you never know. Depending on how hot it gets, we may actually get to that and match our winter peak,” he said.     

Despite a rise in usage during high-temperature months, White said it shouldn’t put any additional strain on the grid, meaning the potential for an outage is unlikely.     

“We are prepared. We have the capacity in our substations, well above even if we get close to our winter peak,” he said.    

The Power Board currently does not charge its residential customers based on usage during peak times, so the June energy rate of 9.284 cents per kilowatt hour will not fluctuate while temperatures begin to rise this weekend. That rate includes fuel cost adjustment.     

A seasonal time of use for residential customers will go into effect in October.     

There are, however, several things customers can do in order to keep their usage down during peak times. One of the best ways to conserve energy and keep costs down is by keeping the thermostat set somewhere in between 76 and 80 degrees.    

“If they can tolerate 76 to 80 degrees on that thermostat, especially during these times, and wear loose clothes ... it’ll keep you from having to turn it down so much,” White said.     

Other ways to keep cool are by keeping the blinds closed and curtains down. Small things like that are easy ways to better utilize one’s cooling system.    

For those customers who have a heat pump, White suggested making sure all doors inside the home are kept open in order to maximize the efficiency of one’s system.     

The Power Board serves 75,927 customers in Washington County and parts of Carter, Greene and Sullivan counties. 

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