The Weather Outlook for Summer-Fall 2013: How It Affects Energy Prices and Your Electricity Bill

By Vernon Trollinger, July 24, 2013, News, Save Money

NOAA-JAS-2013Since we’ve entered the heart of the summer, we wanted to take a bit of time to discuss those temperatures, their projections, and how they will affect your electricity bill.

Currently, the western part of the United States is experiencing above-average dry and warmer weather conditions. Most of the southwest and much of central plains states are in drought conditions again this summer. Temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic states and northeast corridor are also above-average.

The July-August-September prediction from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is for this pattern to continue. Long range forecasts for November through January suggest that chances for warmer than average temperatures will expand throughout most of the lower 48 states. The Southwest, Great Lakes, and northeastern states will have a higher probability of above average temperatures. While the weather might not get to be as warm as 2011-2012, NOAA is suggesting (five months from now) that above-average temperatures might be more widespread than 2012-2013.

What about the Drought?

According to Climate.gov, “Moderate to exceptional drought sprawled across nearly 45% of the contiguous United States at the end of June.” The worst areas (as of this date) are in the southeast Colorado, southwestern Kansas, east-central New Mexico and much of the Texas Panhandle. The area is historically remembered as the heart of the 1930’s Dust Bowl, and there have been a few comparisons between that historical weather pattern and today’s. However, it should also be remembered that the United States has experienced many severe drought episodes since.

To investigate the drought cycle over time with your own eyes for a bit of education:

  • Go to the Historical Palmer Drought Indices
  • Select “Palmer Drought Severity Index,” then “August” for the month
  • Choose a start year of 1900 and end year of 2013
  • Click “Submit”

What about El Niño?

El Niño is an important weather phenomena for variety of ways that it effects weather in the United States and can stifle hurricane formation. Conditions are “neutral” (no El Niño or La Niña phenomena is occurring), and NOAA predicts this will continue through the end of 2013 with a high level of uncertainty beyond.

What Does This Mean for My Electricity Bill?

Depending on where you live, the short answer is, “Continued warmth can lead to a higher electricity bill.” There’s a lot of summer heat right now in Texas, which leads quickly to widespread and heightened electricity demand for air conditioning. Electricity demand, hot weather, and the drought are all presently driving electrical energy pricing in ERCOT, and it doesn’t look like it will cool down soon. The hotter it gets, the more electricity you use, and the more electricity that everyone uses across the state, the higher the price of electricity will climb (unless you locked into a fixed-rate plan when prices were cheaper).

However, in the northern and eastern parts of the country (where our New York and Pennsylvania customers live), consumption is slated to be less than last year. Average electricity demand is expected to be down 4.6% this summer nationwide, while residential electrical energy prices are expected to increase by 2.2%, according to the EIA’s June Short-Term Energy Outlook. So if you choose to remain on a variable-rate plan or the three-month price blocks used by the incumbent utility company for your area, you’ll probably pay for more electricity each month.

While you will experience some increase in the size of your electricity bill because of the high temperatures of summer, there are several ways that you can combat that rise effectively and your family or business being too hot. We recommend the following:

  • Set your air conditioner to 78°F during the day
  • Use fans to circulate air more efficiently
  • Don’t use heavy appliances during the heat of the day (2pm-7pm)
  • Clear out your air vents and/or replace the air filters

What Does This Mean in General?

With summer heat predicted to languish longer than usual, warm temperatures will prolong the drain on electric generators for a while longer. Meanwhile, natural gas reserves are being built up to cover electricity demand for winter heating in the northern states as well as reinforce generation demand. As autumn begins, temperatures will begin to moderate and both electrical and natural gas demand will slacken. Now, recall that NOAA has predicted an above average chance for warmer than average temperatures this fall. While it may not be as warm as 2012, a widespread “warm-ish” fall (and winter, perhaps) would slow natural gas consumption in both power generation and space heating. If this occurs, natural gas prices may fall enough to induce electrical energy prices to dip just a little extra as we approach spring 2014.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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  1. […] long range forecasts for November through January. NOAA is suggesting (five months from now) that above-average temperatures might be more widespread than 2012-2013. A warm winter would continue to keep both natural gas prices low (good news for northern climes) […]