With one in three families struggling to pay electricity bills before COVID-19 set in, a summer spike is as oppressive as the weather. That’s why it’s important to keep power costs low—and competitive power markets can help drive down bills when Americans need it most.
Coronavirus is still surging in many parts of the nation and many of us face a summer of working from and spending more time at home. The result, according to a recent study, is an increase in electricity bills. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the heat is now upon us, leaving consumers paying more to stay cool.
The study conducted by Arcadia, a technology platform, shows a dramatic jump in energy consumption is expected this summer—resulting in higher costs for already financially strained Americans. According to the research, the top 13 metro areas in the U.S. can expect to see bill increases from energy use ranging from $2 to $37 per month.
Summer is also in full throttle, with Americans feeling the burn. Meteorologists expected summer 2020 to be warmer than average in much of the U.S., as noted in The Weather Company’s May Outlook. That expectation is proving true, with July bringing intense heatwaves.
Much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have been hit hard this month, with scorching temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
It’s been so hot that parts of the country shut down COVID-19 testing.
Grid Operators Meet Hot Weather Test
The heatwave is putting the power grid to the test—and so far, it’s passing.
PJM, the regional transmission organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia, has already issued several “Hot Weather Alerts” this summer.
PJM explains, “Hot Weather Alerts are issued when temperatures are expected to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity, driving up demand for electricity,” and says the warning is intended to help prepare transmission and generation personnel and facilities for extreme heat and humidity in order to keep the lights on.
PJM said in May that there are enough power generation resources (capacity) available to meet peak summer demand—which it projected will be about 148,000 MW. EPSA member companies provide about 50,000 MW of capacity to customers in the PJM footprint.
As power use surges in the Northeast, two independent system operators are proving they are more than prepared.
New York State’s grid operator, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), is answering the call to deliver reliable, low-cost electricity—and competitive power generators have the resources needed to meet New York demand with nearly 11,000 MW of capacity supplied by EPSA members. NYISO recently stated, “electricity supplies in New York State will be adequate to meet forecasted peak demand conditions.”
ISO New England (ISO-NE), which serves the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, stated in its Outlook for Summer 2020, “New England is expected to have sufficient resources to meet peak consumer demand for electricity this summer under both typical and extreme weather conditions.”
More good news? Wholesale power prices for customers in PJM, NYISO and ISO-NE are at historic lows. PJM prices in the first quarter of 2020 were the lowest on record, while NYISO prices hit an 11-year low. That’s because the competitive markets all three operate put pressure on electricity providers to keep costs low. Utility bills are impacted by more than just the wholesale price, but competition helps ensure customers don’t pay more than they need to for power.
COVID-19 and summer heatwaves remind us that we need reliable, affordable electricity. Providing more than 150,000 MW of electricity generation to America’s grid, competitive power suppliers are prepared and rising to the challenge to help us stay cool when we need it most.
We can continue to enjoy lower power generation prices by ensuring competitive power markets stay fair and transparent, allowing many companies to compete to provide reliable electricity at the lowest cost.