Hot weather expected to drive up energy costs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &045; Ronnie Snelgrove moved here nine years ago to take over the offices in Demopolis and Linden. He has spent 42 years with Alabama Power, and says that he has seen many changes in operations during that time.

Today, he oversees the operation for more than 8,000 customers in northern Marengo County. He is also heavily involved in civic endeavors through the public schools, Rotary Club and Relay for Life.

Snelgrove sat down with The Demopolis Times to discuss his role, the impact of hot weather on energy bills and the philanthropic endeavors of Alabama Power.

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Tell us a little bit about this office, where it serves and what you guys do out of here, in addition to manning this customer service office.

We serve most of the cities and the surrounding areas. We serve all the way to Gallion and Uniontown, with just maybe a spot between here and there that belongs to Black Warrior.

Going into Greene County, we don’t cross the bridge. We go into Hale County just a little ways, but once you go a little piece past French Creek into Arcola, that’s Black Warrior.

We’ve got a line crew here that serves us, Uniontown, Greensboro, Eutaw, York and Livingston. They works out of the office on Hwy. 43. We used to have a line crew in Livingston, but they moved them all to one location.

In 42 years, there’s been a lot of changes. It’s amazing at the way we’ve done business, and still we do a pretty good job maintaining things.

We have two local linemen who work out of this office. They are as good as gold. They don’t get no better. There may be some who are as good, but no one is better. One of them is always on call, and someone is going to be here every minute of the day and night to make sure we’ve got plenty of coverage. They may not can fix it, but they are always there to know what needs to be done. Everybody is not that fortunate.

With the summer months coming up, what trends do you normally see in energy consumption, especially as it relates to consumer bills.

It seems like every summer we reach an all-time peak, not just here but system-wide.

I would say that summer-time load is more than half of anyone’s bill in the summertime. If your bill is $100 without air conditioning, then your bill in the summertime is probably $250 with air conditioning. It’s probably a good two-thirds of your bill, I would think, in the summertime.

What drives these peaks with air conditioners? Is it the actual usage, or is it that air conditioners themselves use so much energy in their operation?

They use a lot of power. If you heat or cool using electricity, it’s a big load. And gas is the same way. It’s just a big item. In the winter time, if you have gas, your gas bill is about the same amount more. I know gas last year was not as much as the year before. It like to broke folks the year before.

Air conditioners are more efficient than they’ve ever been, but more people have them. It’s like I tell a lot of folks: I’m thankful for a lot of things, and air conditioning ranks right up there. I was raised without it, but I wouldn’t want to go back because I’m used to it now. It would be tough to live without.

And I think that’s what people do. They get accustomed to it, and they just use it. So many folks are not aware that for every degree you lower your thermostat, it increases your power by 15 percent. They say that 78 degrees is ideal, so for every degree below that you are increasing your power by 15 percent.

Of course, 78 degrees is hot to me. If it’s warm in the house and you go outside, when you come back inside you’re like, &8220;It feels pretty good in here.&8221; Your body adjusts. But if you come in the house and you are doing around a little bit, you start to get hot. So you go and kick that big boy up and let it go.

We’re such creatures of habit to be comfortable, it’s pretty easy to say, &8220;I’ll just run that up a little bit.&8221; Then your body adjusts to that. At night, watching TV, it gets cool. Your body is slowed down, and it is cool. But if you get up mopping the floors or something, you get hot. So, it’s hard.

What can people do to conserve energy?

In the summer months, it is set the thermostat and leave it alone. That’s the ideal way to do it.

And, keep the doors closed. Kids coming in and out, it’s just like anything else, the more you open the door, the more you are letting some heat in.

Also, keep the blinds closed and the filters changed.

Of course, it’s a little like I tell my wife, it’s like when you are buying gasoline. If it’s $2.50, you might can find it somewhere for $2.45. But a nickel’s not much. When you fill up 10 gallons, you save 50 cents.

Same way with this. You can save some, but I don’t know if it’s money that you can put in your pockets. It helps, obviously, but it also depends on how budget-conscience you are.

Like I say, though, keeping it set is the biggest thing. I would never suggest turning a thermostat down to try and cool the house when you get home. It has to run so hard just to get there.

Alabama Power is known for its philanthropic efforts. Tell us some of the things the company is involved in here.

We’re very heavily involved in the school systems, obviously. We are proud that we are involved in that.

We help with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the soccer program, the Cancer Society. We make donations to different programs. We’re also supporters of Christmas on the River.

We want to help in most anything, but we don’t want to be the lead dog in everything. We want to be a supporter like everyone else is. We don’t want to say, &8220;Look at what we do.&8221; We don’t mind being known for what we do support. We just try to be involved in as much as we can this way. Of course, there’s always more want than there is money to go around. Pretty much, we do what we can do.