Possibly the biggest factor affecting your electric bill is the weather. It not only directly influences how much you use to heat or cool your home but also affects the demand, supply, and ultimately the price of energy on the wholesale markets. In our What’s the Weather? series, we’ll track weather forecasts and events to see how they impact your energy bills and how that information can help you save.
Summertime Weather Update
As most people in Texas and the east coast have noticed, summer has been one big sweat-fest. Heat got so bad in the southwest that airplanes could not get enough lift to take off. While that’s been great for weekends at the beach or lounging in the pool, a few folks are getting concerned about the heat and wondering when it’s all going to end. After all, extended periods of heat can be dangerous to the elderly, the homeless, pets, and young children. Plus, there’s the potential for problems on the electrical supply grid from everyone running their air conditioning, and of course, the added expense on the monthly electricity bill.
So, how long will this hot weather last?
According to NOAA, temperatures will probably be above average (about 4 °F) throughout July, August, and into September. Through July, above normal temperatures will likely persist in the west (especially in Montana) as well as Texas and the Gulf coast and all the way up the Atlantic seaboard. For the rest of the summer through to September, above normal temperatures are expected to continue through out the country with higher likelihood occurring in the southwest, northeast, southeast, and Alaska. Meanwhile, above-median precipitation is expected for the northern plains and the Louisiana and Texas Gulf coast with much of southern and east Texas having the best chance for above normal rainfall.
Now if all that sounds awful for your cooling bill, the good news for your heating bill is that the chance for above normal temperatures extends into December —which might see the effects of a weak emerging El Niño.
Currently, however, there’s no sign of an El Niño about to appear in the Pacific. While there’s plenty of warm water in the Pacific ENSO zone, it hasn’t been there long enough to start affecting the atmosphere. Stay tuned.
This brings us to the Atlantic Hurricanes season.
Hurricane Season Update
Back in the beginning of June, three of four predictions called for an active hurricane season. However, with the lower probability that an El Niño will emerge this summer and sea surface temperatures in the main development region of the Atlantic are above 80°F, both CSU and TSR have increased the odds for tropical storms and hurricanes this summer.
While there have only been three storms so far, hurricane season peaks in August. So stay alert.
What Does This Mean for My Electric Bill?
Apart from running your A/C more often, LOTS of people running their air conditioners increases electrical demand and so more fuel for generators. While natural gas is currently being injected into storage, much is also being used for “power burn” or generation. Going into the injection season, EIA observed that supplies of natural gas have been higher than average to the point that “For seven out of the last eight weeks, the weekly net injection has been smaller than the five-year average. This is likely a reflection of increased storage levels above historical norms…” In regions where temperatures have trended higher, gas has practically passed straight through storage into generating electricity. On the whole, contract prices were moving upwards —until Qatar announced it was going to double production from it’s giant North Field. How much this will effect domestic US natural gas prices is not yet fully known but prices might begin to falling.
The upshot is that while you might use a lot of air conditioning this summer, prices for electricity and natural gas might not rise as much as previously predicted —unless there’s a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.
But no matter where you are, it’s important to stay safe during hurricane season because these storm systems travel for hundred of miles inland, bringing high winds, tornados, and flood-causing rain. Make sure you and your family are prepared and have a plan. Be sure to check out NOAA’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week suggestions as well as these other helpful storm resources: