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Nav Location: SEC Home  >   CEO Letters  >  This winter - one for the record books


This winter – one for the record books

Ardis Staff - ThumbI know it's March, and we are all ready for a lovely spring. However, I do not think it would be a bad idea to address this winter that we are about to wrap up. It has been unlike any winter we have seen in recent history. I especially want to talk about the first half of January of this year. Since nothing gets the point across quite like a graph, let's talk about three of them.

The first graph I would like to address is the one of January temperatures over the past 40 years. At first glance, it might look like a toddler decided to use a whole box of crayons on the page. However, if you look closer, you can see what this shows us. Each one of those lines represents the average temperature for each day in every January since 1979. Except for the heavy red line - the one we want to talk about - each color shows a complete January in 39 different years. You can see cold days and warm days, from January 1 through January 31. What catches my eye about that heavy red line, though, is how it barely moves for the first seven days of the month. Sure, if you look closely, you might see one or two dips representing a single day of a particular year when we saw a slightly lower average temperature. However, no year comes even close to January, 2018 when it comes to consistent, unrelenting cold.  Nothing in the past 40 years even comes close to that first week of January this year.

Now, I want to talk about the other two graphs and talk about a new term - heating degree days. We all understand that, if the weather stays really cold for a really long time, our heat will stay on more. However, it's nice to have a way of measuring how cold … and how long. For this reason, folks in the weather and utility industries use the term "degree days." Everything is based on 65 degrees for studies we do here in South Carolina. The theory is that, if the average temperature for a given day is 65 degrees or higher, your heat pump will likely not come on. We understand that a day with an average temperature of 45 degrees will see more heating load than a day with an average temperature of 60 degrees. That's why we measure from 65 degrees. The farther a day's average temperature is below 65, the more heating degrees we have for that day. Then, we add up all of the heating degrees over all of the days in the period we want to study, and - bingo! - we have a measure of heating degree days.

These last two graphs look similar, but one only looks at the first 15 days of each January, and the other looks at whole months of January. Each bar represents a different year, and they are in order of most severe to least. Until this year, 2010 was the year in recent history against which we measured all other years. The first 15 days of January, 2010 had about 90 heating degree days - which was the most for the last 40 years … until now. The first 15 days of 2018 shattered the old record - with 113 heating degree days. Now take a look at the last graph. What it shows is that the first 15 days of January, 2018 had more heating degree days than any full January in the last 40 years except for one! That's amazing. A summary of that is to say that your heat was on for the first 2 weeks of this January more than it was for almost every other full January since 1979.

To give you another idea of how severe this winter was, let's talk about Santee Electric's power bill. You might not have realized that we pay a power bill … but we do. We buy wholesale power, and then operate a distribution system (from the substation to your meter) to deliver retail power. Our wholesale power bill for this past December was $8.3 million. Our wholesale power bill for January of last year was $8.6 million. However, our wholesale power bill for this January (2018) was $10.1 million. That's an all-time record for us here at SEC.

Trust me, we know that January was a very painful month - for our members. I do not ever want you to think we are oblivious to concerns about high bills. We are here to work with you any way we can. Education and energy efficiency can help a great deal. The right thermostat settings make a huge difference too. We have a great deal of bright employees working here at SEC, and they would be glad to help answer any questions you might have about your bill or your service. Just let us know!


Robert G. Ardis III

President and Chief Executive Officer

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