Prices up, but cool weather eases summer Con Edison electric bills

2014-09-16 Con Ed summer bills graph

New York had fine summer weather this year — not too hot, and only a few days when temperatures jumped into the 90s. Electricity prices were up a bit this summer, but you probably used your air conditioner less. That means you bought less power, and thus shaved a few bucks from your Con Edison electric bills.

Con Ed’s data tells the story. This graph shows the cost of electricity in July 2014 was lower than in July 2013. Customers who used 300 kilowatt hours of power in both July 2013 and July 2014 paid 5.2 percent less this year than last.

But the good times did not last all summer. Con Ed prices in August 2014 were higher than in August 2013. Customers who used 300 kilowatt hours in both August 2013 and August 2014 paid 10.6 percent more this year.

Generation costs drove the difference. Con Ed’s charges to maintain wires, cables and transformers — labeled as delivery charges on your bill — changed hardly at all this year. In February, the Public Service Commission froze that part of your Con Ed bill for this year and next.

But supply charges — what Con Ed pays generating companies — have fluctuated. During the summer of 2013, generating companies’ charges spiked when the weather got hot in July. Cooler weather helped keep generating companies’ prices steady from July to August in 2014. But overall, generators’ prices were slightly higher this summer than last.

For an imaginary customer who uses 300 kilowatt hours of electricity every month, July and August bills in 2014 were about 2 percent higher than July and August bills in 2013. But hardly anyone uses the same amount of electricity one month to the next. This summer’s cool weather meant people used less electricity to run air conditioners. Because they used less, their bills were probably slightly smaller, despite this year’s higher prices.

All of the above assumes you bought your power directly from Con Edison, and not from an energy service company. There’s no reliable data on energy service companies’ prices, but they are probably higher than Con Ed’s charges.

Con Ed’s own data shows it delivered a lot less electricity during the summer of 2014 than the summer of 2013.

Cool summer weather lowered electricity use and eased Con Ed electricity billsThis graph shows the total number of megawatt hours Con Ed sold in July and August both years. You can see that electricity use was off quite a bit this year. Con Ed sold 8 percent less electricity in July 2014 than in July 2013. It sold 2 percent less electricity in August 2014 than in August 2013. Added up, the numbers show that total electricity sales in Con Ed’s territory in New York City and Westchester County was down 5.2 percent in July and August 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.

Here’s a fun way to understand just how much less power Con Ed customers used in the summer of 2014: Imagine that everyone who lived in 1.78 million apartments in New York City simply packed up and headed for the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore or the Catskills for all of July. That’s the figure you get when you divide the drop in electricity usage in July by the 300 kilowatt hours used in a typical apartment each month.

If the 1.78 million figure sounds outlandish, understand that most of the power Con Edison sells goes to businesses. In 2013, Con Ed told investors that 70 percent of the electricity it sells goes to commercial customers, and 2 percent goes to industrial customers. The company’s residential customers use just 28 percent of the power it sells. The city’s office buildings, shops and businesses use far more electricity than its residences.

o-o-o

Most readers come to this blog looking for information on how to lower their electric bills. Over the last few months, I’ve written several news articles about how alternative energy technology is rapidly becoming cheap enough for home use.

This article in The Wall Street Journal discusses how Con Ed’s high electricity prices are expected to spur more of its residential customers to install home solar electric generating systems. I also wrote a story for MarketWatch.com about how to finance home solar setups. This MarketWatch.com story discusses solar and other alternate energy technologies that are ready for home use.

I really liked this recent story in The New York Times about how solar and wind power are cutting into the traditional electricity generating business. ¬†Alternative energy isn’t so alternative anymore.

About Bill Sanderson

I'm a New York-based journalist, and a former reporter at the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire, the Bergen Record in New Jersey, and the New York Post. My work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch.com and Politico New York. Twitter: @wpsanderson.
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