Higher electric bills attributed to colder weather this year

Team Radio Marketing Group - February 7, 2018 4:00 pm

Cold weather and higher utility bills seem to go hand-in-hand every year, and many customers have noticed the difference in their January bills.

City Finance Director Marc LaBossiere said Wednesday that the main difference for the increase in this month’s electric bills is the weather in December. The January bills are based on how much electric power was used in December.

“It has been a much colder winter than last year. It has been much, much colder. You wouldn’t think that the weather would have that much effect, but it does,” LaBossiere said.

He said another consideration is that many customers have their gas service cut off by ONG for nonpayment of their bills, and they resort to using space heaters, which are very inefficient.

He said total electric service bills in January 2018, for 13,000 residential customers, were $2,561,200. In 2017, January bills totaled $2,066,664. January bills are for December electric use in each year.

“Our rates only went up by 1 percent beginning July 1,” he said. “If the weather had been similar, we would only see total use for the January 2018 bills of $2,087,330.”

LaBossiere looked at Weather.com to see what the low temperatures were in the month of December 2017.

“What were the lows? We had five nights where it was under 10 degrees, and 10 nights that were between 10 to 20. When you compare the lows for those two months, it’s very evident December was a much colder month in 2017 than in 2016,” he said.

“We can see it – for a person with central heat and air or a floor furnace, the cold doesn’t really affect that electric use rate. The only electric is the motor pushing the air through the house, but that’s not a high cost item. I can look at an account – and if they have a very high usage you’ll find a great number of people using space heaters. They are not meant to heat a residence. You plug those things in and they draw a lot of power and you’re not very comfortable.”

The electric rates of Ponca City are 50 percent lower than Tonkawa, Blackwell and Newkirk, LaBossiere said.

“That’s verifiable through OMPA (Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority) – Tonkawa and Blackwell are both OMPA communities, too,”  he said.

For those who wonder if the city’s electric meters could be the cause of higher rates, LaBossiere said Ponca City’s meters are not the same as those used in other states where such problems have been recorded.

“Our meters are not time-of-use meters like other states have. We have relatively low rates compared to coastal states. We’ve had no reason to cram those down our customers’ throats. We have a winter rate which is cheaper than our summer rate, because our demand for electricity peaks in the summer.

“Our bills – the demand component – is lower in the winter. Smart meters has nothing to do with that. That read from the meter goes out to a central tower and in to City Hall. We never raised rates to buy meters or charged more because of them,” he said.

He said Ponca City will be replacing the current remote meters over the next couple of years, but “we’ll be paying out of reserves to replace the meters – they will be smarter meters. We are not doing it to go to time-of-use technology. That’s not the case now or in the near-time planning.”

How did LaBossiere’s own eletric bill fare this month?

“My bill on Jan. 25 for usage from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25 was $263. The electric was $176. For 2016-17 in the same period, the total bill was $223 and electric was $129,” he said. “That’s a 35 percent increase based strictly the weather. That came out to about a $1.50 a day difference.”


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