The heat is on
As summer temperatures rise, so does power usage. The demand for electricity throughout Mississippi Powers service territory is reaching record levels set nearly five years ago.
The high heat and humid conditions are causing records to fall all over the country. The Southern Company system, which includes Mississippi Power and utilities operating in three other states, set peak records the last week of July. Nationwide, the U.S. electric industry also set a new record for overall power demand during the same timeframe.
If these weather patterns continue, theres a very good chance well set new records for customer usage, said company spokesman Kurt Brautigam. We should not have any problem providing enough electricity to meet that demand, though.
Mississippi Powers employees put much effort into meeting the electric needs of its customers throughout the peak season. Over the past several years, the company has set and reset records related to having its generating units available and running efficiently.
The key to making it through these hottest days of summer for us is to focus on keeping the plants up and running. Our operations employees work very hard to maximize the availability and reliability of our generating units.
Most of any given year is spent planning and preparing for keeping the companys generating units on line during the peak usage months. All preventive maintenance work is done during spring outages, when there is less overall demand for power on our system.
Now is when we see the results of all those efforts, Brautigam said.
Tips for beating higher summer bills
The hot weather were seeing now will almost certainly drive up electric bills for our customers, said Kurt Brautigam, Mississippi Power spokesman. Higher bills are a reflection of higher usage, especially when air conditioners and other large appliances are working harder.
We want customers to be able to understand some of the things they can do to help make wise use of their energy dollars. There are many ways they can make sure theyre using electricity most efficiently and economically.
Check the weather stripping around doors and windows.
Check air conditioning and heating filters at least once a month
Make sure your home is adequately insulated.
Close shades, blinds, or draperies on windows that the sun shines through.
Set the thermostat for your air conditioner or heat pump at the highest comfortable setting, ideally around 78 degrees.
Run major heat-producing appliances, i.e. clothes dryers and dishwashers, at night or in the early morning when it is cooler.
Ceiling fans require much less electricity than air conditioners and can make people feel comfortable at a higher thermostat setting that will save energy.
Once food on a surface stove unit has reached the desired heat, cover and lower the heat.
Don`t open the oven door needlessly to check on what`s cooking.
Use microwave ovens when possible.
Check the gasket on your oven door to be sure it seals well.
Do not open the refrigerator door for lengthy amounts of time.
Keep food a small distance away from the interior walls of your refrigerator.
Locate refrigerators and freezers away from heat producing appliances and external doors.
Make sure the door gasket on the refrigerator is smooth and tight to keep cool air in and warm air out.
Operate your dishwasher only when a full load has accumulated.
Don`t use the heat drying cycle; instead let dishes drain dry inside the dishwasher.
Using the dishwasher at night will cause less heat build-up in the house.
Hurricane activity begins early this year
This years hurricane season has put Mississippi Powers storm recovery procedures into action earlier and more often than ever before.
Whenever a hurricane or tropical storm has the potential to threaten Mississippi Powers service area, the company assembles its storm team days in advance. Company employees follow the storms progress and, when necessary, prepare to fully implement the companys restoration plan.
Two mild storms in June set the precedent for what is predicted to be the most active hurricane season in many years. Mississippi Power employees were on full alert for Tropical Storm Arlene, but it made landfall near Pensacola June 11 and had very little impact in our area. Tropical Storm Bret followed shortly after, making landfall in Mexico on June 29.
Just a week later, however, Tropical Storm Cindy initially made landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River and then crossed the Mississippi Coast to make a second landfall in Pascagoula on July 6. Cindy kept company line crews busy throughout the night, bringing 50-60 mph wind gusts and 4 to 6 inches of rain to the area. Approximately 20,000 Mississippi Power customers lost service during the storm, but most were back to normal by the end of the day.
Hurricane Dennis followed Cindy by less than a week, making its initial landfall in Cuba as a category 4 storm. After moving into the Gulf of Mexico, the storm weakened slightly to a category 3 and eventually made landfall in Escambia County, Fla.
We were certainly watching Dennis very carefully and making plans to react, said company spokesman Kurt Brautigam. We were in full storm mode for several days, as it always had the potential to severely affect our service area. Ultimately, we were fortunate that it landed east of us, but we still had some areas that suffered damage and experienced outages.
Most of the approximately 19,000 customers who lost service due to Dennis were in the Meridian area. Company crews from Hattiesburg and Laurel helped local crews restore service to most customers within a day. Once power was restored at home, Mississippi Power workers went to assist Alabama Power in its restoration efforts. At the peak of the storm, Alabama Power had nearly 250,000 customers without service.
Im sure well have more opportunities to prepare for storm duty this summer, Brautigam said. Its a fact of life for us because of where we live. But I think all of us believe the practice were getting is helping to improve our plans and preparations. If and when the time comes, our customers can rely on our company to be ready to deal with any restoration situation. Well get the lights back on as quickly and safely as possible.
Budget billing helps manage summer cooling costs
Mississippi Power customers who use budget billing generally know what their monthly bills are going to be, even during summers hottest months. It is a free service that levels the customers monthly payments based on their actual 12-month billing history. The 12-month average becomes the monthly payment.
Studies show that customers who use the budget billing option consistently have high customer satisfaction, said Kurt Brautigam, Mississippi Power spokesman. This payment option allows customers to budget one amount each month, which makes it easier for them to manage their money.
Budget bill amounts are reviewed monthly and if the difference between the new amount and the original amount is greater than $5 and 10% of the original amount, the new budget bill amount will be used for the next bill. Customers are notified when an adjustment is made.
In addition to budget billing, customers can also consider two of the newest and fastest growing methods of payment via the Internet Electronic bill and Electronic Funds Transfer. E-bill customers receive and pay their bill online, while customers enrolled in Electronic Funds Transfer have their bill automatically drafted from a designated checking or savings account each month.
While many people are beginning to use online methods to pay their bills, most still prefer the traditional way of either making a personal visit to the payment office or simply paying with a check sent in the mail.
More than half of the companys customers pay their bill at one of 30 local customer service offices located throughout its 23-county service area.
Whatever the method of payment, we try to help find the best way for customers to manage their electricity costs, Brautigam said. Anyone with a question about billing may call the companys customer service center at (800) 532-1502.