[r63] Messmer Report: Frightful Weather, Frightful Electric Bill?

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, November 12, 2010

As the weather gets colder, there's nothing more satisfying than tucking away a space heater under your desk at work, or coming home to a crock pot full of hot chili.

What you may not realize is that enjoying that heat during the very coldest months often comes at a premium.

Several of my constituents are unhappy about a new policy adopted this year, which allows the Daviess-Martin Rural Electric Membership Cooperative (REMC) to charge a higher rate for electricity during the summer and winter months, when everyone wants it the most.

Part of this is simple supply-and-demand. From June through August, and December through February, the demand for electricity to power all those air conditioners and space heaters is so high that the REMC has to take more expensive measures to provide service to everyone who wants and needs it.

This, in turn, can lead to more expensive electricity right when you want it the most.

I've been asked whether the REMC has regulatory approval for rate changes like these, so I did a little research- and it turns out that they don't even need it.

Electric cooperatives are not regulated by state regulatory agencies. As with most REMCs, the Daviess-Martin REMC is governed by a board of seven directors who are elected by the membership of the co-op. So while I'm happy to help with state regulatory issues whenever possible, in this situation, my hands are tied. Any questions or comments are better directed to the board of the REMC.

I did call around to other REMCs, and overall electric rates are about the same at all of the area co-ops.

In the meantime, of course, the best way to cut down on your energy bill is to be as efficient as possible.

One of the best things you can do to save energy is tighten up your home.

Take some time to air-seal holes, cracks and openings in your home and then add insulation to stop the flow of heat through the walls and ceiling. 

If you have duct work installed in your attic, be sure it is sealed air-tight. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 20 percent of the air that moves through your duct system is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections, and if it's in your attic, that's expensive.

You can even seal off windows using plastic for the season, creating a kind of second pane to make sure no cold air seeps in.

In addition, shut doors and turn off the heat unused portions of your home. Take the time to completely power down computers and other technology, like entertainment systems, when not in use-or unplug them altogether. These often use electricity even when not in use.

For more tips on ways to make your home energy efficient in preparation for the cold, visithttp://www.epa.gov/greenhomes/ReduceEnergy.htm.

In the meantime, stay warm!