As the coldest air of the winter season arrives later this week, Danville Utilities has received a peak power alert from the regional authority that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity. The alert covers two time periods.
The first period will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday; and the second, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Thursday. The National Weather Service expects temperatures in Danville to fall well below freezing from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning, with an overnight low of 10 to 12 degrees and a wind chill value around zero.
“We are prepared to meet the energy needs of our customers, but we are asking customers to conserve any electrical usage that they can,” Interim Director of Utilities Jason Grey said Tuesday. “What we are trying to do is to keep our demand down, so basically what we are saying is, ‘Hey – you need to help us so that we can help you keep costs down.”
Grey explained that transmission charges for the year are set, in part, by peak usage. With each added megawatt, Danville and other utilities are billed thousands of dollars in added transmission charges by PJM Interconnection, which is a regional authority that must make sure the supply of electricity can meet peak loads in all or parts of 13 states, including Virginia.
For this year, Danville is paying transmission charges based on a spike that occurred on Jan. 30, 2014, when Danville customers used a record 229.7 megawatts of electricity during a one-hour period from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. that day. In comparison, the peak usage in 2013 came on July 18, which was a hot summer day that led customers to use 205.6 megawatts in a one-hour period.
“If we can lower our peak usage, then we can save on costs for the next year,” Grey said. “Customers not only will save money down the road, but they will save money on their next power bill.”
Grey said heating and cooling systems offer the best opportunity for saving money. Electric heating and cooling can account for as much as half of an energy bill, so controlling the home’s thermostat is one of the best ways to manage energy usage and cost.
In addition to lowering their thermostat, customers can help by using less hot water and avoiding the use of the dishwasher or doing laundry during the two peak periods.
WINTER WEATHER ENERGY-SAVING TIPS:
During times of extreme temperatures, customers will use more power, which generally results in a higher bill the following month.
Customers can save around 10 percent a year on heating and cooling bills by simply turning the thermostat back by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. As an alternative, installing a programmable thermostat allows customers to automatically set specific temperatures at different times of the day.
Additional steps customers can take to manage their energy demand and reduce their energy bills:
> Set ceiling fans in a clockwise direction to push warm air down into rooms.
> Open drapes and blinds to allow the sun to warm rooms during the day. Close them at night.
> Change heating-system air filters. Dirty air filters make heating systems work harder, which uses more energy.
Danville Utilities provides natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications services in Danville and distributes electricity to approximately 42,000 customer locations in a 500-square-mile service territory covering Danville, the southern third of Pittsylvania County, and small portions of Henry and Halifax counties.