As temps dive, power use soars

WASHINGTON – Recent cold snaps not only are mowing down historic lows thanks to days of frigid temperatures, they’ve also set power use records for area utility companies.

Baltimore Gas and Electric set a new all-time winter peak hourly record at 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 20.

Dominion Virginia Power set two records last Friday. The utility’s customers used more power than ever before during a 24-hour-period to break a record set on Feb. 16, 2014.

The company delivered 450,432 megawatt hours of electricity.

Friday’s new record high usage for a single hour, set at 8 a.m., beats the previous Dominion Virginia Power record set on July 22, 2011.

At that point – the month of July 2011 was on its way to becoming the hottest month in D.C. in recorded history.

The company supplied a peak of 21,651 megawatts of electricity at 8 a.m. last Friday – over 1,500 megawatts more than was supplied in July 2011.

Dominion Virginia Power has about 2.5 million customers, most of which are in Virginia.

Even a few days of extreme temperatures can dramatically impact power bills.

“As a rule of thumb your bill is going to be about 3 percent more for each degree that you go over what the recommended setting is,” says Dominion Virginia Power spokesman Chuck Penn.

“And of course the recommended setting for most of us is 68 degrees,” says Penn.

Elderly customers and those with health issues may prefer to set thermostats warmer.

Assistance programs are available to help low-income families and the elderly pay utility bills.

Power companies such as Baltimore Gas and Electric also offer budget billing programs that average together bills from higher- and lower-use months to spread payments over a 12-month period.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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