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Breakdown: Selling Electricity Ain’t Easy

In the business world, it’s hard to predict the demand for your product… even if it’s a product that people must have to run their daily lives. We’re going to take a comprehensive look at how the demand for electricity sold by Danville Utilities was greatly affected by the weather in the last six months.

We call this a BreakDown.

Here’s a fact. Residential customers use more electricity in the summer and winter months. Heating & air conditioning use is the biggest part of your electric bill and there’s no way around that (unless if you use natural gas for heating).

Danville Utilities makes a budget like any business does. They have to predict their sales up to over a year in advance and they based those predictions on past sales and the typical weather. But we all know that weather rarely stays typical… so after the final numbers come in, you get these results.

Whoops. This past winter was much milder than previous years and milder than normal overall, so look how bad the sales were compared to the predictions. You’re looking at around 15 to 20% less electricity sold than predicted in December & January. February brought the snow and bitter cold temperatures, so that month’s sales was right on target.

When you look at Danville Utilities’ projections for March through May, you’ll notice that those numbers come down significantly each month. They know what we said above about seasonal usage is true, too. March & April were “not extreme” climate months, with no bad cold snaps nor heat waves. In fact, they were a little warmer than normal so heating use went down but not so warm that people used much cooling in their homes. That’s why those predictions were off by 7 to 10%. May was right in the average for climate, so they hit their target within a few percent.

So, what does all of this mean? Let’s pull out a Big Board.

  • Sales were less than projected, but Danville Utilities wasn’t to the point of losing money. They’re not just making as much profit as expected.
  • Less profit than expected makes it a bit tougher to use those profits for things like capital improvements & paying down the Power Cost Adjustment fund deficit.
  • The Utility Commission is still planning to use $4,000,000 of their available cash-on-hand to pay down that Power Cost Adjustment deficit later this year.
  • We’re going to have a BreakDown coming up on the Power Cost Adjustment fund soon. The deficit is much less than it was last year, but it’s still pretty bad. It’s down to around “only” $10 million but that compares to $19 million in the hole two years ago. We’ll talk about where that money will be coming from in the next BreakDown. And you should already know that answer.
  • Finally, I’m obliged to remind people that there’s no conspiracy regarding Danville Utilities. They don’t charge “what they want to” or any crap resembling that. It’s sad that I have to keep saying it, but there are still people who believe those things. Ugh.

Predictions are just that. Predictions. And when those predictions are partly based on something as unpredictable as weather over a year away, you’re going to be wrong more often than right. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a very big deal. But now you’ve gotten a detailed look at what those numbers are, what the sales were and why everything happened.

We call that a BreakDown.

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