Cold snap increased use of electricity

With average temperatures during this time of year historically in the 50s, the long stretch of days with below freezing temperatures we experienced in Horry County between the end of December all the way through the second week in January definitely impacted the use of electricity.  

Santee Cooper hit a new peak record on the morning of January 11. “A new peak record of 5,668 megawatts, recorded between 7 and 8 a.m., topped a previous record that had stood for just over two years,” officials stated in a press release. Santee Cooper recorded its last peak, 5,650 MWs, on January 4, 2008.

Throughout the cold snap, Horry Electric has been recommending keeping thermostats at a setting of 68 degrees or lower. Each degree above that setting will add about 5% to your heating bill.  “We’ve been encouraging members to put on extra layers of clothes so they can resist the temptation to adjust that thermostat up even one degree,” said Garrett Gasque, marketing representative for Horry Electric.

 “Just like we have had to brace ourselves to face the freezing outdoor temperatures during this cold snap, we’re all having to brace ourselves to face the ‘amount due’ on our individual bills,” said James P. “Pat” Howle, executive vice president and CEO of Horry Electric. “Based on a quick evaluation our energy management department did on a sample group of accounts, the use of electricity for the approximately 30 days after December 12 was about 53% higher than the approximately thirty days prior,” he said.  

The accounts used for the evaluation are those that historically and consistently fall within the average range of kWh use that is typical of Horry Electric residential members. The comparison dates used for the 30 days prior to December 13 included November 13, 2009 through December 12, 2009.   The comparison dates used for the 30 days after December 12 included December 13, 2009 through January 11, 2010.

Individual kWh use has been higher than normal, but Horry Electric hasn’t broken the 346 megawatt record peak established January 4, 2008.  “We contributed to Santee Cooper’s new record peak, but we fell short of our own record,” said Kevin Jordan, distribution engineer for Horry Electric.  “We came close, but the metered coincidental peak measured for our system on January 11 was 344 megawatts, which is 2 megawatts shy of our previous record,” he said.

 No records have been set for peak demand on the system, but the demand on the system over such an extended period of time has been unusual. “Not only has it been cold, but it has been cold for a longer than usual period of time,” explained Jordan. “We usually have a few days of extreme temperatures and then get some sort of break in the weather,” he continued. “This time, the freezing temperatures stayed with us for an extended period of time and we’re breathing a sigh of relief that snow and ice didn’t add to the misery.”

Sticker shock is now starting to hit members.  “It depends on the billing cycle for your individual account, but some of our members have already received a bill for a portion of the energy they’ve been using during this extended cold snap,” said Theresa Blum, billing supervisor for the Cooperative.  Several members have already seen the impact on their electric bills and the number of calls made to the cooperative by concerned members has increased dramatically.  “We know it’s not going to be easy for a lot of people and, if they have a good payment history with us, we’ll be glad to work out a payment arrangement with them,” she said.  A good payment history means the member responsible for the account has fewer than 3 late payments during a period of 12 months, no bad checks and no broken agreements.

For information on getting the most out of energy dollars, visit

One response to “Cold snap increased use of electricity

  1. Tried very hard to keep our thermostat at 68, but we’ll see how we did when we get the bill. Thanks for all the updates on the record setting.

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