by Darren Sadowski, Advantage Energy Partners

This winter season has brought record low temperatures to the Northeastern region of the country. These temperatures are dramatically increasing the amount of energy required to keep businesses operating at normal conditions. During cold peaks, the demand for energy increases substantially across the grid. Homes and businesses alike are consuming more energy than normal to keep the temperatures at optimal levels.

Energy prices in the Northeast spiked due to winter storm Grayson. The record cold snap in the East is the primary cause for recent large storage withdrawals. The below normal temperatures for the majority of the lower 48 states have driven higher consumption of natural gas for residential heating and power generation. Withdrawals exceeded the 5-year average across the board. Working gas stocks are now below the 5-year average in all five regions for the first time in 2017.

Total consumption of natural gas soared 26% week over week, reaching a new all-time high on January 1st. Power burn demand jumped 18%; industrial consumption rose 8%, while residential/commercial demand increased 39%! The impact of cold weather is real.

How can you protect yourself and your business? If you have a fixed-rate energy plan, you have taken a step in the right direction. A fixed-rate energy plan prevents your unit cost from rising or falling based on market prices, which means that you don’t have to worry about the cost of each individual kilowatt hour skyrocketing. You should also review your energy contracts; many suppliers have conditions in place that will allow them to pass on extreme cost increases to the customer.

That said, there is a second side to the equation- consumption. While your unit cost may be fixed, you are certain to consume more energy during these peak/stressed periods. There are measures you can take to monitor and control your

consumption. Business owners should take the time to review, or have an energy consultant review, consumption from your energy bills. This will give you insight to consumption at various times throughout the year at a building or site level. There are additional tools in the market that will allow you to monitor your energy consumption in further detail, both at the building level or down to the plug/device level, as well as granular time intervals.

Now that you’ve taken steps to understand your consumption needs, act to optimize your consumption. Simply put, minimize your consumption; start by turning off lights that are not required. Be sure to change your filters in your HVAC system to ensure they are running at an optimal level. Use low-wattage efficient appliances, over the last few years advances have been made in appliances to minimize consumption. This is true for advances in computers, phones, printers, fans, heaters, and even coffee makers. Consider draft stoppers, these are special blocks or mats that you can put at the bottom of interior doors to keep cold drafts from moving throughout your facility. Creating an energy efficient environment doesn’t come from one choice, but of many both small and large.

During these extreme periods of weather, decreasing energy usage anywhere possible can help balance out your overall usage so that an increase on your monthly bill won’t be quite so noticeable.

Darren Sadowski is VP of Commercial Operations at Advantage Energy Partners. He has a BSBA in Management Information Systems from Robert Morris University.