Do city residents pay to power Christmas lights?

It’s a question that gets asked often, usually around the holiday season. Do the residents of the City of Natchitoches pay for the electricity used to keep the 300,000+ lights on during the city’s annual Christmas Festival.

This past Christmas, the question was raised again on social media, and after seeing some misinformation, the NPJ decided to help settle this.

Residential electricity consumers should be used to a PCA (Power Cost Adjustment) charge that appears on their monthly bills. The quantity of power that’s lost during transmission and distribution of electricity across the electric grid is referred to as a line loss within the system loss. Because the City of Natchitoches must purchase enough energy to cover your estimated consumption (including line loss amount), this loss gets divided and passed on to customers within the PCA charge on their bills. Line loss covers things like city street lights and transformers.

While it hasn’t always been this way, the city installed meters on the Christmas lights in 2012. While the old incandescent bulbs used a lot of power, everything is now LED and the city uses one-fifth the electricity it did as recent as five years ago. The meters can also be turned on and off remotely and can be set with automatic timers for when the lights turn on and off.

On a side note, all city buildings are metered separately, even the utility department (pump stations, plants, etc.…) Every kilowatt hour is accounted for, except for street lights. The utility department itself takes the usage out of its own account and buys power at cost from the city.

Vendors at the Christmas Festival that operate during the whole Christmas Festival season are individually metered and are charged for their electricity usage. One-day vendors pay a flat rate.

The meters for the Christmas lights are turned off every summer and the meters are read manually each month during the Christmas Festival season. So, for the 2022 Christmas season (Nov. 26 – Jan. 6) it took 18,381 KWH.  Multiply this by .10 (municipal rate the city pays to Cleco) and the total is $1,838.10. This amount is NOT passed along to the City Utility customers in their utility bills.

The municipal rate simply means the city doesn’t charge itself for line loss. It takes the number of kilowatt hours it buys from Cleco and divides it by the amount of money Cleco is being paid. This is done before the line loss is calculated to determine the municipal rate.

Because the Christmas lights are metered, the power fed to them during the Christmas season is not calculated as part of the line loss, which is factored into the PCA charge on consumers’ bills. 

Code of Ordinances/Chapter 30 – Utilities-Article II; Sec. 30-18(8) Power Cost Adjustment