Home Energy conservation Mesa’s electrical customers will likely see higher bills this year

Mesa’s electrical customers will likely see higher bills this year

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Mesa is asking its electrical customers to conserve energy during peak hours in the face of soaring electricity costs.

Mesa’s electric utility customers are likely to see their bills increase, but can help keep costs down by reducing their energy use during peak hours by 3 to 8 p.m., per city.

Mesa provides electricity to approximately 13,500 residential and over 3,000 commercial customers, including city facilities, within an approximately 5.5 square mile radius centered around downtown Mesa. Most of the city is supplied with electricity by private providers like the Salt River Project.

The city buys its electricity supply from the market and does not operate its own electric generators, making it largely dependent on market conditions. Electricity costs have risen in the Southwestern United States due to population growth, increased energy use, and the shift to new sources of energy that don’t deliver as much during the hours rush, putting Mesa in a tough spot.

“In my 40 years of professional experience in the energy industry, including 30 years in the western United States, I have never seen or experienced anything like what happens in the markets. energy today. Nothing could be closer, ”Frank McRae, the city’s director of energy resources, told city council recently.

McRae said his first goal was to avoid power outages and his second goal was to minimize costs.

“My policy is that we will find the energy we need to keep our customers from being in a blackout situation,” he said. “If we are in a blackout situation, it will only be because other utilities in Arizona are in a blackout situation as well.

Other Arizona utilities like Arizona Public Service Co. and the Salt River Project don’t seem as concerned with the state’s power supply, and haven’t asked customers so directly to save more than they do. habit.

What Electric Mesa Customers Should Know

Mesa’s electrical customers will see their bills increase, McRae told The Arizona Republic.

Some customers could see double-digit percentage increases over their bills last year, he said.

This is because the city faces considerably higher electricity costs, and these cost increases are passed on to customers. Electricity costs have declined for about 10 years, and those reductions have been passed on to customer bills, McRae said.

Now, with the increase in procurement costs, this will also be passed on to customers, although McRae has said it won’t happen all at once. Some cost increases will be deferred, spread over time or absorbed by the city. City facilities and services also strive to use less energy during peak hours when prices are high.

The city hopes to limit any residential customer’s bill to more than 5% above what their bill would be if they had SRP electricity, McRae said. For the past 10 years or so, Mesa’s bills have been lower than SRP equivalents, he said. That changed last summer when the city saw higher costs and bills came much closer to SRP.

The city suggests that customers take these steps to save energy:

  • Energy saving from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Set the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher during peak summer hours or when you are away from home. Setting the thermostat five degrees higher can save up to 20%.
  • Use ceiling fans. Using ceiling fans and air conditioning during the summer allows you to raise your thermostat by about four degrees and feel the same way.
  • Close windows and doors.
  • Turn off lights and unnecessary items such as computers and power strips when not in use.
  • Use heat producing appliances like oven, dishwasher, washer and dryer during cooler times of the day, such as after 9 p.m.
  • Clean or replace the AC filter so that the device does not have to work as hard.

Mesa electric customers can ask for help if they need help paying their bills. Income-eligible residents can get utility assistance in July, August, and September through the city’s summer electrical assistance program. The city is also seeking federal funding to further help residents pay their electricity bills.

Mesa has been running its own power service for the city center since city leaders bought the utility in 1917.

Board member Kevin Thompson suggested it might be better to sell the utility to SRP if they can offer better rates. But McRae maintains that the utility will recover its costs and that the city intends to diversify by producing more of its own electricity, partnering with other utilities to manage the facilities, and adding solar suppliers to it. large scale.

“I am confident that we can develop a plan and the assets to make this an isolated event and to begin to reduce our costs and create opportunities for us to partner with other utilities located in the same location in Arizona. “, did he declare.

What explains the increase in costs?

Mesa relies heavily on the market to purchase electricity, rather than producing much of its own. What is happening elsewhere in the West is impacting the Mesa market.

“This year the market has changed for us,” McRae said.

Demand for electricity is growing, but supply is contracting as large power plants like the Navajo Power Plant go offline without enough new plants or other power sources to meet the needs of a wider customer base. said Anthony Cadorin, head of Mesa’s energy resources program.

Prices for the city can increase between 250% and 700%. “It happened to us much faster and much more drastically than we could ever have predicted,” he said.

Mesa has seen its annual electricity supply costs decline in recent years, hitting a low of around $ 11.6 million in 2019-20 before climbing to $ 30.8 million the previous year.

This fiscal year, it could cost anywhere from $ 40 million to $ 60 million, depending on the city.

High temperatures play a role, and relying on resources like solar power that generate less during peak hours does play a role, McRae said.

The city intends to add new power generation to its resources, but the price spike came a few years faster than expected.

“Things are not only getting precarious because of the price situation, but this delicate balance between demand and supply in the region is getting closer to where demand exceeds supply and that’s where we we all need to find a way to conserve and reduce our consumption, ”said McRae. told the board.

What about Arizona private vendors?

Other Arizona utilities do not send messages to customers to the same extent.

APS has yet to break a customer demand record this summer, although it was closed in mid-June.

“We are well prepared,” said Kent Walter, director of resource operations for APS. “We plan carefully for the high heat. We are also preparing from a generation perspective so that we are tuned in and ready to operate during these most critical times. We are also ready people. We are looking for what can go wrong.

The utility hasn’t asked customers to save more than usual this summer, he said, and hasn’t issued any emergency calls to save energy.

APS has two programs that can help reduce the demand for electricity during the hottest hours of the day. One is called Cool Rewards and APS offers an incentive to residential customers who volunteer to allow the utility to control their thermostats during certain hours of the day. It also has a program for large companies where they volunteer to reduce electricity during the days when APS calls the plan to action.

APS used both programs on June 16 and 17, Walter said.

SRP also has a demand response program where it can ask businesses to reduce their electricity use during peak hours and has implemented that plan twice this year after using it for eight days last year. .

Likewise, the utility has broken no records this summer for customer demand, despite the recent heat wave, said Chris Hofmann, director of transmission and production operations at SRP.

This week, with temperatures expected to be cooler than they have been, there is no worry about having enough electricity, he said.

“We have the generation to meet our load,” Hofmann said on Tuesday.

“We are still working with APS and (Tucson Electric Power) to support each other,” Hofmann added. “In the event that any of us find ourselves in a situation where they have to lean on us a bit, we’re always here to help.”

TEP suggested customers save power in mid-June, but not because the utility was concerned about the power supply.

“Hot weather increases utility bills as air conditioners use more energy to maintain interior temperatures chosen by customers,” TEP said in a press release in mid-June. “Utilities also pay higher prices for electricity in hot weather, which increases costs that are passed on to customers.”

Do you have a story on Mesa or Gilbert? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alsteinbach.

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