Cold temps caused high OPALCO bills

Submitted by Orcas Power and Light Cooperative.

Due to the extended cold snap in December, OPALCO members are going to see a big jump on their next power bill. Extreme winter weather means our heating systems are working harder to keep up. Even if you keep your thermostat the same, your system is running more often and for longer periods to keep up. Your heating system is working to make up the difference between the outdoor and indoor temperatures; the longer the cold spell, the harder the system works and the more electricity you use.

On Dec. 22, OPALCO’s power system had a record high energy usage of 85+ megawatts (MW) – and that’s a lot of power! The last big peak during the 2021 cold spell was 80+MW.

Members can can track how much electricity they are using in the SmartHub app. It shows hourly, daily and monthly usage. Members can see the direct correlation between dropping temps and rising electrical usage. This can help consumers decide when to turn the thermostat down, close the doors to some of the rooms you aren’t using or other winter work arounds to keep your energy bills down.

Another component to pay attention to is the Energy Charge Adjustment line item on the bill: each month it can be a credit or a debit depending on the previous month’s power bill from OPALCO’s supplier (Bonneville Power Administration-BPA). The Energy Charge Adjustment reflects the variation in power costs and kWh sales for the previous month, calculated by comparing budgeted vs. actual power cost per kWh sold. This adjustment protects members and the Co-op from large year-end true-ups. OPALCO expects a large demand charge from BPA for the December power bill due to the high demand. Members will likely see that on their January bills as an additional debit.

If you or someone you know is struggling with winter power bills they can sign up for Project Pal and Energy Assist. Now is also a great time to donate to Project Pal to help co-op neighbors in need. Visit to track your energy usage, sign up for energy assistance or make a donation.