NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – The heat is on and many are finding higher energy bills as outside temperatures continue to rise.
“It’s latent,” said Gabrielle Hillman, a resident of Metairie. “We are trying to improve the use of our eco mode on our air conditioning, but when you get home it is 80 degrees in the house.”
As Louisiana approaches record highs and similar triple-digit temperatures, there’s a lot you can do to stay cool — turn on the air conditioning and pay the price.
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Nick Caillouet says he’s not surprised to see higher bills during the ever-relenting Southern summer.
“I’m running the A/C at 70 degrees no matter what because I’m out all day. I need to go home to freshen the air,” he said.
Higher outside temperatures require more energy to cool your home, which means the bills add up when you’re looking to cool off from the summer heat.
“During this time of year, this air conditioning unit is basically costing you more than half your electric bill,” said Sandra Diggs-Miller, vice president. Customer Service at Entergy New Orleans. “That’s before you get to appliances and lights and all the other stuff attached to it.”
She said rising fuel costs led to higher bills.
“The cost of natural gas has increased exponentially since February,” said Diggs-Miller. “I want customers to know that fuel load varies based on personal use.”
She recommends that people set their thermostat to 78 degrees to save money.
“Any grade below (78) can really boost your account by up to 3%. So if you’re turning the air conditioning down to 22 degrees, you’ve already increased your electricity bill by 18% that month,” Diggs-Miller said.
While some might dispute that recommendation, she said that cooling costs could account for up to 55% of your monthly energy usage.
Hot summer months add stress to the local power grid. Eric Smith, associate director of the Energy Institute at Tulane University, said the grid in Louisiana is strong enough to handle the surge.
“We usually don’t lose energy in the heat. I mean, we’re used to it, you know. This is not our normal situation. Where we lose energy catastrophically is with hurricanes,” he said.
This summer, other areas of the country are bracing for blackouts caused by the heat and the stress it places on the country’s electrical grid, a result of the closure of fossil fuel plants and a stronger push for alternative energy sources.
Smith says Louisiana is in a much better position than other states thanks to high industrial energy consumption.
“We have a pretty well-developed network with one glaring exception… which is Texas doesn’t have many interconnections with anybody, including Louisiana. But we have good interconnections with Mississippi, Arkansas and even Oklahoma,” he said, which allows the state to buy power from neighboring states in emergency situations as long as the connections work.
“It’s a matter of how much stress are you going to put the system under? You can never guarantee that nothing will happen,” Smith said. “But what you want to do is get rid of the obvious things that tend to happen more often, like wires falling out or the loss of a fuel supply that is predictable.”
Smith says Louisiana’s power grid is “in pretty good shape” after Hurricane Ida nearly 10 months ago.
“The biggest long-term weakness is that we don’t generate much of our energy locally. It’s all being brought in from outside the parish of Orleans,” he said.
As other states shift to greener forms of energy, Smith said those states will still need a backup for emergencies – like drought, wildfires and even hurricanes.
“When you’re dealing with wind, solar and hydropower to some extent, you’re dealing with intermittent sources, and they have a habit of going down when you least need them,” he said, adding that they can be unreliable if conditions aren’t right. favorable. “But you have to simultaneously install a backup power supply and that’s one of the problems [states like] California has.”
Fortunately, Louisiana has two main sources of energy, he says, natural gas and nuclear.
Wind and solar energy fields often require thousands of acres of land, something Louisiana cannot afford. Because of this, Smith predicts that nuclear power will dominate the “green” space of energy consumption.
“Nuclear energy has a lot of potential to provide clean energy and the ability to be reliable with a smaller footprint per kilowatt-hour than anything else we are currently doing,” Smith said.
All in all, Smith says Louisiana is in a good position and likely won’t see blackouts this summer like other states.
“I think Louisiana is probably going to complain a lot because that’s what we do, but the fact is, if you spend any time looking at other parts of the country, they have a lot worse problems with their power supply than we do.”
Diggs-Miller says the work continues to strengthen the network in southeastern Louisiana and believes Entergy is ready for hurricane season. She said the energy giant has a hurricane response plan and is working closely with the City of New Orleans and the Water and Sewerage Board.
Entergy offers customized payment plans and bill payment assistance for those who qualify. Entergy also offers free home assessments to help homeowners and renters determine how to keep their homes fresh and save money.
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