Comfy summer for Con Edison electric customers

 

If you’ve been smart enough to steer clear of energy service companies, your Con Edison electricity bill has probably been pretty reasonable this summer.

Here are a couple of graphs that show what happened inside your Con Edison bill during the summers of 2014 and 2015.

2015-09-02 Con Ed NYC summer pricesThis graph represents the bills of typical New York City Con Edison electric customers — apartment dwellers who use about 300 kilowatt hours of electricity each month.

The blue part of the graph is the actual cost of the power you used. If you’re on Con Ed’s default plan, you pay what Con Ed pays generating companies for your electricity. The red part of the graph shows what Con Ed charges you to deliver electricity to your home — its wiring, transformers, light poles, and other equipment.

2015-09-02 Con Ed Westchester summer pricesThis graph shows the same thing for typical Westchester County Con Edison electric customers — homeowners who use 450 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.

The data for both these graphs comes from Con Edison.

Several factors lie behind the nearly unchanged rates this summer.

One is that the state Public Service Commission has frozen Con Edison’s transmission and delivery rates through the end of 2016. Con Ed last got a transmission and delivery rate increase in April 2012. That means by the end of 2016, the company’s rates will have been in place for nearly five years. The only change to what you pay for transmission and delivery has come from state fiddling with utility tax rates. This fiddling has saved you pennies. A typical New York City customer saved 26 cents per month over a year ago; typical Westchester customers saved 62 cents.

2015-08-31 summer Con Ed supply ratesA second factor is that the price of electricity itself has declined over the last few years. This graph shows the typical per- kilowatt hour rates Con Ed charged a typical customer over the last few summers. The prices are generally down because Con Ed has been able to buy power cheaply from generating companies in New York and elsewhere in the region. Generating companies are charging less because of the declining price of natural gas, the fuel most commonly used to make electricity in New York.

Another factor is simply the weather. It’s been warm this summer, but we haven’t had any big-deal heat waves or other kinds of weather events that drive up electricity prices. “We see it as a fairly typical NYC summer, with temperatures a few degrees above normal,” said a Con Ed spokesman.

Hotter weather increases everyone’s use of air conditioning, which pulls a lot of power from the grid. Generating companies lay on extra generating capacity during the several days a year we need that extra power — and that extra capacity, which sits idle the rest of the year, is very expensive.

We didn’t need that extra generating power very much this year. Con Ed’s peak load this summer came at 6 p.m. on July 20, when its customers drew 12,316 megawatts. That was about 10.6 percent less than the company had projected as its peak load for the summer. It was also 7.6 percent below the record load of 13,322 megawatts the company hit at 5 p.m. on July 19, 2013.

2015-08 onslo and maisyWhether consumers’ good times will continue is an open question. If natural gas prices spike — as happened in the winter of 2014 — bills could sharply increase. Over time, the state’s increased use of renewables will also have an impact on your bill. You might save a tidy sum of money by putting solar panels on your roof, for example. And don’t forget that Con Edison charges residential customers some of the country’s highest rates.

But the bottom line for summer 2015: If you used the same amount of electricity this year as last year, you’ve saved a few dollars — like these cool cats enjoying the air conditioning and appliances in their Con Edison-powered New York apartment.

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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