History-making weather creates energy bills the size of Texas

The dog days of summer may be history, but if you’re opening your electric bill this month to see your August usage, keep in mind that we made history this summer with extreme temperatures that had us wishing for the Ice Age. No matter who provides your electric service, you probably suffered sticker shock when opening your recent electric bills.  

Much like a broken record, North Texas kept breaking record after heat record during the scalding, sweltering summer of 2011. There are valid reasons that your most recent electric bills may be the highest you’ve ever received. The summer of 2011 now stands unrivaled for the most triple-digit days on record at 70 days.  And that’s not the only Lone Star record sent up in smoke.

Consider the following sweat-inducing statistics (based on National Weather Service DFW stats):

•    The average high in August was a balmy 104.3°;
•    The high of 107° Sept. 13 was the highest ever for that day, and a new high that late into summer;
•    Between July 2 and August 31, there were only three days when temperature failed to reach 100°;
•    On Aug. 3, the high temperature was 109° after a morning low of 86°. This was the highest mean temperature ever recorded;
•    There were 11 days with record highs this summer; 
•    In August, North Texans suffered an average temperature of 90.6°, topping out at 110° on August 2.

Even low temperatures during the night were downright unforgiving:

•    Low temps of 86° had never occurred in this area prior to 2011.
•    There were 10 days with low temperatures of 85° of higher.
•    Only once before had there been a low of 85°, the last summer that the official thermometer was in downtown Fort Worth (1939);
•    Our area saw 55 days with a low of 80° or higher.

These temps had far-reaching effects. For example, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) spent much of August announcing Level 1 Energy Emergency Alerts in early afternoon. Twice, they rolled to Level 2 and barely avoided Level 3, which would have resulted in rolling outages like those we encountered during the February 2011 ice/snow storms.

Winter and summer, ERCOT lassoed power generation and wrangled consumer demand like a professional rodeo rider to keep the Texas grid from collapse. We should all tip our Stetson hats to ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett and his staff. However, the biggest thank you of all should to go to the real Texas heroes – the consumers who repeatedly rose to the challenge and conserved energy during peak usage hours.

The February and August ERCOT scenarios are prime examples of scarcity in power generation, and let’s not forget that Texans don’t have to be dripping in sweat or chilled to the bone to experience energy shortages and high bills. Statistics show that power demand will continue to increase, and I believe that generation resources will shrink – hobbling our ability to keep the lights on and costs in check. Short-sighted EPA regulation freight-training the Texas energy industry plays a big role in capacity issues, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. 

With hearts the size of Texas, the Employees of CoServ Electric stand ready to help Members take the bull by the horns by providing free energy audits, conservation advice, rebates for energy efficient upgrades, and funding to area social service agencies to ease the sticker shock of high bills during tough times. Visit www.CoServ.com for more information. 

Michael A. Dreyspring is President/CEO of Denton County-based CoServ Electric.

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