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Increased power demand to lead to higher than usual MED bills

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MASSENA - Customers of the Massena Electric Department will notice higher than normal bills in March as a result of near record demand for power brought on by a cold January.

MED Board President James M. Shaw said with more and more people switching to electric heat this is something that can be expected.

“We are aware that more people are moving away from other heating sources, like wood, towards electric,” he said. “This puts an additional load on our system during the heating months.”

Mr. Shaw said, while he understands people electing to heat their homes with electricity, he’s hopeful that people will take proper steps to ensure that energy is not being wasted.

“We are hopeful that people will invest in properly insulating their homes so that this energy is not wasted,” he said. “The board is trying to incent people to be more efficient with their energy consumption. And while they may be more efficient, we are concerned in the amount of purchased power we have to buy.”

MED Treasurer Jeffrey M. Dobbins explained MED has an allotment of low-cost hydro power available to them for roughly 1.5 cents per kilowatt. Any power used above that 23.9 megawatt allocation must then be purchased at a much higher rate.

“When we go above our allocation we are paying over 7 cents per kilowatt for energy,” Mr. Dobbins said. “We anticipate our peak for January to be nearly double that amount.”

MED Superintendent Andrew J. McMahon said unofficial readings show a peak of 47.2 megawatts, a reading that would be 6 percent higher than their previous record of 44.5 megawatts.

“Our usage for the system for the month was at or near an all-time high,” he said, explaining that over the years the cost for supplemental power has increased dramatically.

“The cost of supplemental power used to be about 3 cents per kilowatt. Now it’s over seven,” he said.

Mr. Dobbins echoed those sentiments. “In 2012, MED spent $4 million on supplemental power versus $1.5 million only five years ago.”

Mr. McMahon said it’s a combination of the increased demand and the increased cost that will lead to higher than normal bills for MED customers.

“The amount of supplemental power we buy has tripled in the past 12 years and the cost of that power has doubled,” he said. “The more supplemental power we buy, the higher the PPA goes.”

Mr. McMahon said the increase has nothing to do with the rate MED charges for power, a base rate that has remained unchanged for nearly 10 years.

“We have had the same base rate since the mid-1990’s and the same formula to calculate our PPA since 1981,” he said. “The end result is that for the next few months we will all be seeing a relatively high purchase power charge.”

Mr. Dobbins explained while the increased demand was in January, given the way they are billed for power in February, customers will not notice the impact until receiving their bills in March.

Despite the increased charges, Mr. McMahon noted that MED customers will still be playing well below what the customers of other utilities will pay.

“Based on those costs, the residential customers will pay about 7 cents per kilowatt hour, which is still well below state averages and what most utilities charge.”

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