Why Does My Electric Bill Go Up when the Temperature Goes Down?

The Power of Partnerships

On the week of January 14, bitter cold brought historic demand for electricity across the Tennessee Valley region. On Wednesday, January 17, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) set a preliminary all-time, record peak of approximately 34,524 megawatts. The previous all-time record was 33,482 in August of 2007.

I am extraordinarily proud that, working together, we collectively met that demand and kept folks across the region safe and warm. Of course, keeping the lights on is our job. But it’s important to acknowledge the effort everyone, from linemen to plant operators to those staying warm at home, played in ensuring people across our seven-state region had power during the extreme cold.

After Winter Storm Elliot in 2022, TVA undertook an extensive review that led us to take more than 250 immediate, corrective actions. In addition, in the last three months, we’ve invested nearly $123 million to harden the system and enhance reliability and resiliency at our coal, gas, and hydro facilities. This included adding insultation and enclosures around exposed equipment to prevent freezing and installing state-of-the-art smart heat trace monitoring systems, to help us be more responsive to potential issues. During January’s extreme weather, those investments helped us keep assets operating.

We worked closely with electric cooperatives and other local power company partners to help get the word out to conserve energy during a four-hour peak period on Wednesday, January 17. Small measures undertaken by everyone across the state – turning the thermostat down a few degrees or waiting to start the dryer until later in the day, played a big role in helping us protect the grid. We are working to quantify that, but it’s important everyone across the region knows they played a role in helping us keep the lights on.

Thank you to everyone for the role you played in meeting this historic demand. Your efforts were essential and appreciated, and I’m very grateful for your partnership.

Jeff Lyash

President and CEO, Tennessee Valley Authority

Why Does My Electric Bill Go Up when the Temperature Goes Down?

Extremely cold weather can have a big impact on energy bills. The extended, extremely cold weather we experienced in January was unusual for our region.

January saw near zero low temperatures and several consecutive days of temperatures below freezing. These extended periods of cold weather can lead to increased demand in energy consumption. In fact, our power supplier, TVA, set an all-time record peak energy demand on Wednesday morning, Jan. 17.

So why does energy consumption go up when the temperature goes down? The answer is fairly simple.

Colder outdoor temperatures require your home heating systems to operate longer to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures. This is true even if thermostat settings are unchanged. For example, when a home’s thermostat is set at 65 degrees and the outdoor temperature is 45 degrees, the heating system must generate only 20 degrees of heat and may only operate a few minutes of each hour. However, if the outdoor temperature is 15 degrees, the heating system must generate 50 degrees of heat and must operate almost the entire hour to maintain an indoor temperature of 65 degrees. The longer a heating system runs, the more energy it uses. Homes with gas heat will see higher power bills because fans that circulate the heat run on electricity.

Contact Southwest Tennessee EMC as soon as possible if you have difficulty paying your bill. We can see if members are eligible for a payment arrangement or change your payment method to our FlexPay program. You may also consider enrolling in our levelized billing program to avoid seasonal peaks in your energy bills.