• December 19, 2014

Record-setting electricity usage so far in March

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Posted: Saturday, March 8, 2014 12:15 am

Unpredictable weather could mean a higher average winter bill for area residents, especially for those with electric heaters.

“Typically, your highest usage will be in the heat of summer for air conditioning, but it could be higher in the winter if you have electric heating,” said Terry Hadley, Texas Public Utility Commission spokesman.

The Public Utility Commission helps regulate the state’s electrical infrastructure and power and electric retail markets.

It takes more electricity to power an electric furnace than an air conditioner.

When furnaces are continuously running, more electricity is consumed and electric bills grow.

Earlier this week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, a nonprofit organization that manages most of the state’s electrical grid, reported Texas broke its March record for peak consumption in a single day, said Robbie Searcy, a spokeswoman for the council.

Peak demand Monday morning reached 54,549 megawatts, exceeding ERCOT’s previous March peak demand record, set in 2002, by more than 11,500 megawatts, an ERCOT news release stated.

As a comparison, 1 megawatt of electricity can power 200 homes on a hot summer afternoon or about 500 homes on a spring day, Searcy said.

ERCOT, an independent system operator, schedules power on an electrical grid that connects 40,500 miles of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units. By doing so, it ensures electricity reaches about 23 million Texas customers and represents 85 percent of the state’s electric load, according to the ERCOT website.

While winter temperatures have not been consistently below or close to freezing, such spikes in consumption will afect bills.

“We have seen very high electric use throughout this winter,” Searcy said.

Now is a good time for people to start tracking or comparing their seasonal electric usage, Hadley said.

“If you are using electricity to heat, you certainly want to find the lowest level temperature that you can be comfortable at,” Hadley said. “It is a little less expensive to wrap up in a blanket than run an electric heater.”

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