MASSENA Massena Electric Department customers used the highest amount of energy in the 6 p.m. block in the 32-year history of the municipal utility Thursday evening, with subzero temperatures and strong wind chill factors forcing heating systems into overdrive.
Customers used 50.5 megawatts of energy between 6 and 7 p.m. Thursday, according to MED Superintendent Andrew J. McMahon.
Its a one-hour average load record that was set. For our 32 years, we never had as much energy used that was at 6 oclock, he said. What were seeing now on an instantaneous level is that our load is 8 percent higher than it has ever been before.
Obviously Christmas lights are still on, and that doesnt help. People are using a lot more electric heaters, even if its just space heaters. People are just using a lot more electricity, with cellphones and multiple TVs, etc., he said.
Mr. McMahon said the low temperatures, which were well below zero Thursday and Friday, likely will have an impact on customers bills in the coming months.
He said there are a few ways for customers to limit the amount of energy they use. We always encourage, particularly now, that people limit the use of energy between 4 and 7 p.m., which is typically when we set our peak; whether its with vacuums, doing laundry, etc., Mr. McMahon said. Any time you can control doing that load during those hours is helpful. Theres certain neighborhoods where we may have to make some infrastructure adjustments to accommodate the energy uses in certain places. ... Weve (also) been trying to go the other way. Weve been trying to remind people that we have all sorts of incentives to make energy-efficient improvements, too.
He said the peak has been increasing gradually 1 to 2 percent in recent years.
St. Lawrence Gas also has felt the effects of the recent cold spell.
Weve seen an increase of about 14 percent colder than last year. Trying to convert that to what effects it has on the gas bill is tricky. Its hard to put an exact number on it. I can say that customers can expect their volumes to be higher because of the cold, General Manager James P. Ward said.
It does, however, look like January will be warmer for the next couple of weeks. They might get a little bit of a break. Hopefully that forecast holds true, he said.
The biggest tip is that people clean and replace their furnace filter on a regular basis. Also, it is important to lower your thermostat. For every one degree you lower it, you will save 1 to 3 percent on your heating bill, Mr. Ward said.
St. Lawrence Gas uses a method called degree days to measure the effects of the low temperatures.
Heating degree days is the measure of a cold temperature. To calculate it, you take your average temperature for the day and subtract 65 degrees. So a minus-20 degree day would be 85 degree days. Thats what we call our peak day at St. Lawrence Gas, Mr. Ward said.
The last few days have been around 73 or 75, so pretty cold but not extreme cold that we see sometimes around here. ... If the number is above 65, there is no heating degree days and if the number is less than 65, you subtract the number from 65 to calculate the number of heating degree days.
Mr. Ward said that despite the negative effects the subzero temperatures can have on a heating bill, there is one positive aspect.
Our customers are lucky because even with the cold, they can be thankful that there is the choice of natural gas, he said.