Natural gas in high demand creates high electric bills

Published: Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:06 AM CST
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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- There was quite the shock for many Arkansans when the utility bill came this month. The cold winter has caused a high demand and when the demand is up, so are the prices.

"This has caused an upward pressure for natural gas supplies both here in Arkansas and around the nation, which has caused an increase in the price per kilowatt hour, that consumers are going to have to pay," said Forest Kessinger with Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.

Kessinger said about a year ago natural gas cost them $4 per million BTU. Today it's $40 for the same amount. The electric cooperatives use three major sources to generate power.

"One of them is coal, one of them is hydro-electric and the other is natural gas," said Kessinger.

Hydro electric has a steady price because the river is a constant source, but it's coal that makes up a majority of their generation.

"Coal prices are very steady and are steady overall all of the months of the year, so we don't see spikes in coal prices," said Kessinger.

It's the use of coal that has some at the federal government, including Congress worried about the burning of coal to generate power. Opponents of coal fear its use could be harming the environment.

For electric utilities, like the Electric Cooperatives, getting rid of coal as a generation method would send bills sky-rocketing even higher. Right now the power co-op is marketing a "mix" of all three sources as the best way to generate electricity.

"About 70 to 75 percent of our generation comes from coal with another five percent coming from hydro," said Kessinger. "If it were coming 100 percent from natural gas we would be susceptible to these natural gas spikes in all of our generation, and would be a very high bill indeed."

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