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With More People at Home, Energy Bills Rise

Tay Glass, Host: It’s hot today. The temperature in Manhattan reached the low 80s this afternoon. As New Yorkers get a preview of air conditioning weather, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that given the economic strain caused by the pandemic, the City is petitioning the state to help New Yorkers pay their summer energy bills. Emily Pisacreta has more.

Emily Pisacreta, byline: If you’re like many New Yorkers, you’re working or studying at home. You have the lights on. You have a computer and a phone plugged in. And starting today, you might be turning on your air conditioner. Noah Rauschkolb is a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University. He says when it comes to electricity usage now every day of the week is like a weekend.

Noah Rauschkolb: You’ve got more steady energy use throughout the day. We’re not seeing this trend so much where you’ve got a morning peak and then people leave for work and then come back in the afternoon.

Emily Pisacreta: Data from Columbia’s Earth Institute suggests that while energy usage in the city has decreased overall, New Yorkers are using an average of 23% more energy during the day at home. That means higher bills.

Noah Rauschkolb: It’s certainly going to hit harder for people for whom energy costs are a much bigger portion of their expenses who are already having trouble paying.

Emily Pisacreta: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, even before the pandemic a third of Americans had trouble affording their electric bills. Con Edison has already announced that it won’t shut off New Yorkers’ electricity due to non-payment during the pandemic. De Blasio says 450,000 residents receive a subsidy to help pay their summer utility bills. But with COVID-19 he’s asking the state to double those subsidies. Mayor Bill de Blasio: In summer, utility bills go up. This summer they could go up a lot more because more and more people are staying home, sheltering in place.

Emily Pisacreta: Still, PhD candidate Noah Rauschkolb says that while energy bills for tenants and homeowners are sure to increase this summer, the demand for energy overall is dropping. That’s because of all the businesses and schools which have closed. And, that could offset some of the price for consumers. Emily Pisacreta, Columbia Radio News

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