Tampa Electric sets summer power-use record two days in a row

As soaring August temperatures hit heat-fatigued customers, Tampa Electric reported customer power use broke records twice this week.
Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station, one of the company's three power plants, operates at 6990 Dickman Road in Apollo Beach.
Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station, one of the company's three power plants, operates at 6990 Dickman Road in Apollo Beach. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2021) ]
Published Aug. 11, 2023|Updated Aug. 11, 2023

On Tuesday, Tampa Electric customers set an all-time record for summer electricity use.

The next day, as temperatures in Tampa Bay reached 97 degrees, they set another one.

Customers used 4,640 megawatts of electricity at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the company reported. Twenty-four hours later, they were using 4,754 megawatts, nearly surpassing the overall company record for electricity use at any given time.

The average Florida household consumes about 58 megawatt-hours of electricity in a year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Tampa Electric serves 830,000 customers in Hillsborough County and parts of Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties in a 2,000-square-mile service area. Duke Energy, one of the largest energy utility companies in the Southeast, is the other main provider for Tampa Bay residents. The company covers 1.9 million customers across Florida. Power usage among Duke customers neared an all-time peak this week, at around 9,400 megawatts each day.

Tampa Electric has over 5,000 megawatts of generating capacity between three plants. Duke, meanwhile, has a generating capacity of 10,500 megawatts in Florida. The federal government considers the state to be at low risk for blackouts this summer.

A spokesperson for Duke, Audrey Stasko, said the company’s grid in Florida can take the strain. Tampa Electric spokesperson Cherie Jacobs also projected confidence. But “one thing for certain,” Stasko said, is the likelihood of ever-higher utility bills for customers.

Florida households paid about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity in May — more than most Southeast states, but less than Virginia. Duke Energy customers in Florida paid an average utility bill of $172 in July. In comparison, EIA data shows Florida consumers in 2021 paid an average of $130 each month.

In Florida, electricity use peaks in both the summer and winter, according to a report by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Tampa Electric’s all-time record for power use, 4,760 megawatts, happened in January 2010.

Tampa Electric said in a news release that the company will not disconnect any customers for unpaid bills until at least Aug. 20. And the company is donating $1 million to Project Share, a local program run by the Salvation Army that helps customers pay utility bills. Duke has a similar program called Share the Light that offers customers one-time assistance with past-due bills.

Both Tampa Electric and Duke offered tips to help customers reduce energy usage. They recommended keeping air conditioning units at the highest possible setting — Tampa Electric recommends 78 degrees — and turning off or unplugging unnecessary appliances, like ceiling fans in unoccupied rooms. Cleaning or replacing air conditioning filters each month also promotes energy efficiency, according to Tampa Electric.