Analysis: Record-breaking Summer Heat Sparked $64 Million In Higher ComEd Bills -- but Efficiency Could Have Wiped Out Most Of Cost Hike

CHICAGO, Oct. 2, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One of Illinois' hottest summers ever slammed Commonwealth Edison customers with about $64 million in extra costs, but they could have wiped out most of that increase with simple energy-efficiency measures, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) said Tuesday, based on an analysis of federal data and thousands of electric bills reviewed by a free utility-bill-cutting service, CUBenergysaver.com.  

CUB's report, "Costly Kilowatts: How Inefficiency Burned ComEd Customers During A Record Hot Summer," is available at www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org, and was released as ComEd's electricity rates went up by about 20 percent. The analysis, however, shows that simple actions many people take for granted—using fewer lights, turning off the coffee maker—can help cushion customers from events over which they have little control, such as summer heat waves and rate hikes. In fact, CUB's findings suggest that energy efficiency could have saved ComEd customers nearly $50 million this summer.

"Our findings indicate that historic heat burned a $64 million hole in our budgets," CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. "But CUB's analysis suggests that reducing electricity waste could have helped ComEd customers douse the flames—if they had taken advantage of efficiency."   

Kolata said this is especially important given that ComEd's supply rates increased by 20 percent on Oct. 1, to about 8.32 cents per kilowatt-hour (supply charge + transmission services charge).

May through August was one of Illinois' hottest summers on record, with more than six weeks' worth of temperatures at 90 degrees or above—including a record three straight days of 100-degree heat in the Chicago area. CUB's analysis was based on energy-usage data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical arm of the Department of Energy, as well as a sample of 2,697 ComEd customers using CUBenergysaver.com, a free online energy efficiency service offered by CUB to help consumers cut their utility bills and earn rewards for saving energy. The analysis showed:

  • While Illinois consumers used an average of 7.2 percent more electricity this summer than last, CUBenergysaver.com users showed a significantly lower increase, 2.1 percent;
  • Applying those increases to all of ComEd's 3 million residential customers (assuming typical summer usage of 3,300 kWh) means the heat may have jacked up electricity usage by 715 million kWh from May through August, gouging consumers of an extra $63.6 million. However, energy efficiency could have cut that usage by 512 million kWh, slashing costs by 70 percent, for savings of $45.5 million.

That's enough electricity to air condition 282,000 ComEd homes for an entire summer.

This was CUB's first analysis of aggregate summer data from CUBenergysaver.com. Managed by CUB and the software firm C3, based in Redwood City, Calif., the free service allows ComEd customers to sign up and connect their utility account to the online tool to track actual electricity savings. Users choose from among hundreds of efficiency actions to build a money-saving plan for their homes, and can receive restaurant and shopping discounts for cutting electricity waste. Since 2010, the tool has shown people how to save $2.3 million on gas and electric bills, for an average of about $108 a year.

The report data smashes any myth that efficiency is complicated or expensive. Nine of the 10 most popular actions listed by CUB Energy Saver in mid-July required little or no investment:

  • Use fewer lights at home;
  • Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs;  
  • Turn off the coffee maker after brewing;
  • Dry clothes outside or on a drying rack, instead of using the dryer;
  • Lower window blinds on summer days to keep the home cooler;  
  • Use a smart power strip, which can help consumers combat "vampire power," energy eaten by computers, TVs and other appliances that are plugged in but not being used;
  • Wash larger loads of dishes;
  • Use the microwave, which burns less power than an oven and doesn't overheat the home;
  • Buy an efficient gas—not electric—clothes dryer;
  • Turn off the home's air conditioner one hour before leaving home.

"Even in the hottest of summers, this analysis shows that there are many 'no-sweat' actions that could have helped ComEd customers make a $50 million difference on their power bills," Kolata said. "You can't control the weather, but you can control how you use electricity at home."  

CUB on Tuesday also announced its "Scary Power Bill Giveaway." Those who join CUBenergysaver.com and link to their ComEd accounts by midnight on Halloween will be entered into a drawing to have their worst summer power bill paid, up to $150.

CUB is Illinois' leading nonprofit utility watchdog organization. Created by the Illinois Legislature, CUB opened its doors in 1984 to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. Since then, CUB has helped save consumers more than $10 billion by blocking rate hikes and securing refunds. For more information, call CUB's Consumer Hotline at 1-800-669-5556, or visit www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org.

C3 Energy is a leading provider of energy efficiency and customer engagement management solutions for utilities. Learn more at www.C3Energy.com.

SOURCE Citizens Utility Board



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