You saw this one coming from a long way off, shimmering in July’s sweltering sun. Except it’s not a dreamy mirage — it’s a nightmarish Con Ed bill, bloated by the air conditioning you used to beat last month’s scorching heat wave.
Generating companies cranked out the kilowatts in July faster than Con Ed could deliver them to power-gorging air conditioners. So much electricity was coursing through the company’s wires, it had to reduce voltage on parts of its system. The excess load also caused short circuits that led to many small blackouts.
The company hit an all-time usage record of 13,322 megawatts at 5 p.m. on July 19, beating a record set two years earlier. The record is about 50 percent more than the company’s typical daily peak. Con Ed also set a new record for Sunday use, hitting 11,241 megawatts at 6 p.m. on July 7.
More demand for electricity means higher prices. July’s bills will show you paid about 12.8 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity you bought from Con Ed. That’s more than twice the 6.1 cents you paid for a kilowatt hour of electricity back in December.
Those charges only cover the cost of electricity generation, which Con Ed passes on to you without markup. Con Ed charges separately the cost of actually delivering those kilowatts to your home. The breakdown of these charges on your bill will make steam come out of your ears if you think about it too much.
But here’s the breakdown anyhow:
Typical residential customers pay Con Ed a flat basic service charge of $17.33, a 10.5 cent per kilowatt hour delivery fee, a “system benefits charge” of 0.57 cents per kilowatt hour that goes to “New York State renewable energy, environmental and other related public policy programs,” a “temporary NY state surcharge” of 0.39 cents per kilowatt hour, 4.5 percent in sales tax, gross receipts tax, and a “merchant function charge” that is “associated with procuring electricity, credit and collection related activities and uncollectible accounts.”
And there’s a bunch of other hidden taxes and fees not mentioned in the bill, including local property taxes for Con Ed’s transformers, poles, substations and what not.
The bottom line: You’re going to pay this month. Not only did you probably use a lot more electricity than usual, but thanks to the good old law of supply and demand, Con Ed sold you that power at a higher price.
At least the company has the courtesy to warn you.
“Remember those scorching temperatures a couple of weeks back?” Con Ed said in a chatty e-mail to its customers which I got on Friday, just before my bill arrived via snail mail. “If you’re like most New Yorkers, you sought refuge from the sweatbox conditions by pumping up the A/C,” the e-mail said. “The cost of staying cool may have resulted in a higher-than-normal energy bill for July.”
If you like numbers, you might enjoy a look at the state Public Service Commission’s typical bills survey, which is here. It’ll show you that Con Ed charges a lot more than other private utility companies in the state. Unfortunately, the data is about a year out of date.
Update, August 27: The state has updated its typical bills data. Here are the numbers for January 2013.