A $50,000 electric bill? The cost of cooling L.A.’s biggest houses in a heat wave will be far more than the electricity bill for their air-conditioning units — and that’s because the system fails to account for the costs of energy needed to prevent a catastrophic meltdown, according to a report by the California Energy Commission.
The report, which was released Wednesday, found that the average price of operating and maintaining a conventional air-conditioner in a Los Angeles home was $2,097 a year, or about $11 a month.
However, the cost of energy needed to prevent the cooling units from freezing up is estimated to wind up to $10,800 a year, or about $1,400 a month — which is more than a $50,000 electric bill for a three- bedroom house.
The report was issued one day after the state’s largest utility, Edison International — which serves about half of the Los Angeles County’s residential customers as well as hospitals, universities, military facilities and other commercial and government facilities — warned that it would have to reduce power to more than 4,000 buildings if L.A.’s power grid was hit with another severe winter storm.
The report found that in addition to an array of cooling failures, the systems were not designed to absorb the heat from a storm on top of a regular summer-time cooling load. The report’s authors, who include an economist and a civil engineer, warned that the current system is being used to “justify a policy shift” to natural gas and other alternative power sources.
David Jones, a spokesman for Edison, said the state’s utilities were in the process of analyzing the report and that the company was meeting with elected officials to discuss the issue.
“However, we have to keep in mind that there are other factors such as weather in addition to the utility’s physical ability to supply power,” Jones said. “The fact of the matter is we have a supply problem in California and the energy mix is changing.”
The report was produced as part of a larger survey of the cooling systems used in Los Angeles homes. The survey was conducted by