As the summer sizzles, so does electricity use

Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 7:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 7:24 p.m.

It is official. Summer 2010 is one of the hottest on records -- the second-hottest, actually -- causing air conditioners to run almost non-stop and electric bills to shoot up.

The Weather Channel's severe weather expert, Greg Forbes, said much of the East and South are in an "anomalously persistent" high pressure system, extending as far west as central Louisiana and as far north as the Ohio River Valley, causing record temperatures throughout the country -- but also staving off hurricanes coming in from the Atlantic.

The average daily temperature this summer has been 83.1, which ties for the warmest on record with 1998.

The average nighttime low temperature of 73.6 for June through August was the hottest on record for Gainesville. And the average high temperature for that same time period was 92.7 -- second only to 1998 as the hottest on record.

Back then, the average high temperature was 93.6. We're also about three degrees above average for the daily average.

And we're not alone.

"There definitely is a signal there that we're in the warmest period on record for the globe," Forbes said. "Just about all of the warmest years on record have occurred in the past decade."

According to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Gainesville saw the most consecutive days in the 90s ever -- 49 days between July 6 and Aug. 23. We've had one day above 90 since then -- Aug. 30 -- but we were expected to hit it again Wednesday. May and June were also scorchers, with 17 days in May above 90 and 28 in June.

Gainesville Regional Utilities officials said the high temperatures have resulted in higher-than-usual energy consumption. Kilowatt hours used by residential customers are up each month compared with last year, and they say some GRU customers will see an average monthly increase of 7 percent on this season's bills -- while others might see a still-higher impact.

Two of the biggest energy consumers in the city -- the University of Florida and Santa Fe College -- also are having to work to keep students, teachers and staff cool but are keeping a close eye on conserving.

The University of Florida has seen its electric usage increase only slightly and power bills go down slightly this summer.

Ed Poppell, UF vice president for business affairs, said it's because the university has undertaken an aggressive conservation effort in the past 12 months, including what's known as "recommissioning buildings." He explained that his staff is going through each building to ensure all systems and mechanism are functioning according to the original building designs.

Over the years, he said, people have asked that certain changes be made, including asking that their vents be closed or the thermostat adjusted to their liking, which essentially takes the building out of balance and causes inefficiencies.

"That type of thing happens every day in every way all over campus," he said. "We make one person happy on one floor but someone else unhappy. Recommissioning takes a building back to running how it was originally intended."

At Santa Fe College, a recently installed solar panel on the roof of the library has helped the school use less energy -- but the college's electric bills have gone up for some summer months over last year's figures.

Bill Reese, associate vice president for facilities planning and operations, said the cost went up because of the fuel adjustment charge that everyone has to pay.

"When raw crude would go up to 100-something a barrel, the fuel adjustment would go up, and that's the one we really have no control over," Reese said. "They don't need a rate increase to be able to do that."

But Reese added that over the past five years, Santa Fe's "kilowatt hours used" has decreased by 2.7 million, even though the college has added new buildings.

Contact Kimberly Moore at 352-374-5036 or

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