Visitors impact summer energy demands

Myrtle Beach, SC - By Jennifer Grove - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - With the influx of tourists increasing the summer demand for electricity along the Grand Strand, one power company says they are constantly looking at how to reach those short-term visiting customers.

It is no surprise that visitors say energy use and power bills are not exactly on the forefront of their minds as they look to escape the daily grind by visiting the Grand Strand. Visitors say when it comes to getting people to turn off lights and become more conservative with the AC, it's a matter of who is paying the electric bill.

Wendy Arthur, who is down visiting with her family, says not having to be concerned about that bill is just one of the perks she enjoys about her beach visits.

"That's the nice thing," Arthur said. "When you come on vacation you don't worry about these types of things. You just kick back, run all the air you want, enjoy the beach, the sun, the ocean, [and] the waves."

The beauty of the coast is just the reason Santee Cooper says visitors should be energy conscious.

"Even on vacation it's important to save energy," Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said. "The reason is that you save money, but you also are conserving our natural resources, and let's face it, that's why people come to Myrtle Beach."

As part of the Reduce the Use South Carolina initiative, Santee Cooper initiated a billboard campaign reminding tourists to conserve energy even while they are on vacation. They are also working with some area management companies to put flyers, magnets and stickers in area hotel rooms.

With so many things vying for visitors' attention, however, even that may not do the trick.

"I've really not even paid much attention to them to be honest," Arthur admitted.

Gore says the company's main focus is on targeting the facilities that host vacationers like Arthur. In addition to conducting energy audits, Santee Cooper is also working to encourage the installation of energy-efficient appliances like water pumps, refrigerators and light bulbs.

"By placing compact florescent lights (CFLs) in the individual units the people rent, we're actually making it very easy for them to be energy efficient on vacation," Gore said. "They don't even have to think about it."

"I think that's smart," Arthur said. "I think anytime you can save on electricity you should."

Gore says anywhere energy usage increases, including at the beach, there is a potential for electric bills for surrounding customers to be impacted.

"As the state continues to grow and the area continues to grow, if we can achieve certain levels of efficiency then it offsets how much new capacity we need to build," Gore explained. "That of course is a real savings for our customers."

Gore says anytime they are forced to increase infrastructure like adding power lines, power plants or new personnel, that means the cost will in some form be passed on to the customer. They say any energy saved is electricity customers do not have to pay to generate and distribute.

Santee Cooper says their Grand Strand customers typically use more electricity in the winter than in the summer, even though the summer is the busiest time for tourism. They say this is primarily because unlike colder areas of the country where oil or natural gas are used in the winter, Carolina customers most often use heat pumps in the winter.

The all-time peak demand for residential and commercial customers was set just this past winter, at 986 megawatts. Santee Cooper says the area has not come close to that number this summer.

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