October 18, 2020

Electric costs edging up, but temporary jumps probably due to pandemic | Editorials

Electric costs edging up, but temporary jumps probably due to pandemic | Editorials

Late summer and heading into fall many New Jersey residents have seen surprising increases in their electric bills, but these aren’t from the clean energy costs they may be dreading. Blame the pandemic and the reaction to it for them too.

From March through summer Gov. Murphy barred utility workers from entering dwellings, so those with meters indoors got estimated readings instead of actual usage.

At the same time, power usage increased as people spent more time at home and often worked from there. Instead of turning down the air conditioning and shutting everything off for the day while adults worked and kids were in school, they kept it cool and with TVs, computers, lights and all running. A Columbia University study early in the New York lockdown found weekday energy usage increased 7% and midday usage by 23%. Atlantic City Electric said hotter summer weather was also a factor.

Now that meters have been read, bills are catching up with what people actually used and they’re complaining. The BPU in one month has received 26 complaints from ACE customers, 229 from those with PSEG and 36 from JCP&L.

These increases will go away after bills are adjusted for usage estimates (if any) and work and school return to normal (hopefully soon).

There are, of course, more clean energy bills coming due soon. The utilities also have proposals before the BPU to pay for electric-vehicle infrastructure, giant battery facilities and smart meters. After that will be the cost of the massive development of offshore wind energy. Clean energy technology is expensive, and much depends on how much the technology improves over the next decade.

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