Bloomberg News

Cool Nights May Damp Northeast Electric Use Into Mid-May

May 14, 2012

The U.S. Northeast and Midwest probably won’t stay hot enough night after night to boost electricity demand for air conditioning through mid-May.

High temperatures in New York City until May 23 may be in the 70s Fahrenheit (low 20s Celsius) during the day, dropping into the high 50s to low 60s overnight, according to MDA EarthSat Weather in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

While the weather may be warmer than normal for this time of year, it won’t be enough to spark a rise in electricity use to cool homes and businesses in New York or the Northeast, said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Even the warmth in the Midwest is just 80s, rather than any early season stronger heat events that can sometimes play out,” Rogers said in a note to clients today.

The low cost of natural gas brought about by a glut created by high production and a warmer-than-normal winter has prompted more power plants to use the fuel to create electricity. Gas consumption is expected to peak at 31.2 billion cubic feet a day in the third quarter, when air conditioning use is the highest, up from 27.7 billion a year earlier, according to the Energy Department.

Natural gas futures gained last week, settling above $2.50 for the first time since February, on speculation that demand will rise as power plants switch to gas from higher-priced coal.

Benign Pattern

“We see occasional hotter chances over the next two weeks in the West, Plains and sometimes the Midwest, but otherwise, the pattern is fairly benign with below-normal demand,” Rogers said.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center forecasts the cooling degree days value for this week to be 24, or 3 above normal and 10 above last year. In the mid-Atlantic region and New York State, the value is expected to be zero, or 5 below normal, matching last year.

Cooling-degree days, which are watched by traders as an indication of energy demand, are calculated by subtracting a base of 65 degrees from the daily average temperature to show. Higher values mean warmer weather and more energy being used to cool homes and businesses.

Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire are also expected to have a value of zero, according to the climate center in Camp Springs, Maryland. Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan may have 1 and Connecticut and New Jersey 2.

Average temperatures may be 3 to 4 degrees above normal in the Northeast from May 24 to May 28, according to MDA’s 11- to 15-day outlook. In Chicago and the Great Lakes, average temperatures may be 5 to 7 degrees above normal for the period.

The normal average temperature for May 16 in New York is 63, according to MDA. It’s 58 in Boston, 59 in Chicago, 67 in St. Louis, 70 in Atlanta, 74 in Dallas, 77 in Houston, 60 in Seattle and 72 in Burbank, California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net


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