Two more arctic cold fronts blast Central Texas, lead to more high electric bills

01.30.2014_Arctic JanuaryTwo strong, arctic cold fronts blasted Central Texas in January, following the two fronts that arrived around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The most recent fronts brought unwelcome ice and snow. To parents’ displeasure but students’ delight, area schools either canceled or delayed classes. The unusually cold winter weather had another effect – surprisingly high electric bills for Central Texans.

People across Central Texas are receiving electric bills much higher than they’ve seen the past two winters. In turn, Bluebonnet and our neighboring utilities are receiving lots of calls from folks who want to know why their bills are so high.

There’s one answer – weather.

Weather is the single biggest contributor to increased energy consumption for residential consumers.

There are two factors in calculating an electric bill: cost and consumption. The cost per kilowatt hour, which is the unit of measurement for electricity, stays the same from month to month. But consumption varies from month to month, mostly depending on the weather. The typical family uses more electricity during cold winter and hot summer months than in moderate spring and fall months. Therefore, their electric bills are higher during the winter and summer.

So far this year, ice or snow has twice canceled or delayed school and work, leaving kids and parents at home when they would normally be away. Subsequently, thermostats were set a few degrees warmer for more hours than normal, increasing energy consumption and driving up electric bills.

To compound that, some of our members might have the Christmas holiday’s cold front and one or both of the January cold fronts on the same billing cycle, which will cause their electric bills to be even higher than the previous months, which had only one cold front.

And winter isn’t over yet. According to Bob Rose, meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority (no relation to Bluebonnet’s Mark Rose), the same jet stream pattern that brought chilly air into Central Texas in December and January is expected to continue through much of February.  The latest long-range forecast indicates more strong cold fronts will push across Texas during February, causing additional periods of below-normal temperatures.  Bob Rose said this colder-than-normal pattern may ease up toward the end of the month as the jet stream pulls further north.  Central Texas could see more wintry precipitation through the first half of February.

But that doesn’t mean our members have to be surprised by another high electric bill. Members who have set up an online account on the co-op’s website, bluebonnet.coop, can see how much energy they are using down to the hour, how much it’s cost them and see what their bill is projected to be at the end of their billing cycle.

Those who don’t have an online account can easily set one up. All that’s needed is their account number, the name on the account and to follow the simple directions.

A temperature overlay feature on our website, the Net Energy Market, shows the correlation between low-in-the-winter and high-in-the-summer temperatures and electric consumption as well as cost. Our members can see how weather impacts their energy consumption on an hourly, daily and monthly basis. They can compare their energy use during a mild spring or fall month, like April or October, to the hot summer and cold winter months.

No one can control the weather. But our members can stay ahead of it by logging on to our website, bluebonnet.coop, and seeing how it affects their energy consumption, their electric bill, and ultimately their wallets or checkbooks.

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About Will Holford

Have you ever wondered about the future of electric use? Perhaps you’re curious about how some global or national events might impact your power, the environment or your bill? Maybe you’re just interested in what’s going on at Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative. We want to share what we know, and that’s what the Bluebonnet Blog is about. Will Holford, Bluebonnet’s Manager of Public Affairs, is going to write most often for the blog. He’s been with the co-op since 2007, and has worked in communications for more than 14 years. Will enjoys learning about energy – and writing about it. He and other Bluebonnet employees (and occasional guest contributors) will get the conversation going -- about everything from where your power is generated to where it’s used, advances in technology, changes that will affect you, and interesting peeks behind the scenes at the co-op. We welcome your comments, questions and ideas. Email Will at will.holford@bluebonnet.coop.
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