KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Consumer efforts to conserve power, combined with the dedication of thousands of utility workers, allowed the Tennessee Valley Authority and 155 local power companies to successfully meet the highest electric demand since the “polar vortex” of January 2014.
The bitter cold isn’t just impacting schools and airports, as temperatures across the nation hover at historic lows, utilities around the country are struggling to keep up with the heightened electric demand. As temperatures plummet, homes and buildings that rely on electric heat naturally require additional heating power. A similar phenomenon happens during the hot summertime afternoons when the additional electric demand is driven by straining air conditioners.
Utilities, including Duke Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority here in the Southeast, are asking customers to voluntarily conserve electricity over the next 24 hours to ensure adequate power and lessen the likelihood that service will be interrupted in affected areas. Already utilities are considering rolling blackouts – a dangerous situation where utilities turn off power to whole sections of their grid. South Carolina Electric & Gas already had to use rolling blackouts this morning to prevent complete grid failure. If customers don’t comply, more utilities may consider utilizing this strategy themselves.
A peak power demand of 32,723 megawatts across TVA’s seven-state service territory was reached at 7 a.m. CST on Thursday morning. Demand hovered between 29,000 and 30,000 megawatts overnight, as the average temperature across the five-largest metropolitan areas reached 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is the third highest winter peak demand in TVA’s history, and tenth highest demand peak overall. TVA‘s all-time winter record peak demand of 33,352 megawatts was set on Jan. 24, 2014.
To meet the demand, TVA relied on its diversified portfolio of electric generating resources, including nuclear, natural gas, coal, hydroelectric and other renewable sources, as well as purchased power from other sources both inside and outside the Valley.
As slightly warmer temperatures return to the area, TVA is withdrawing its request for voluntary conservation efforts, but appreciates the support of Valley residents and businesses. Consumers are encouraged to continue taking steps to reduce their electric use and benefit from lower power bills in the future. Money saving tips for both winter and summer can be found at www.energyright.com.
Over the past five days, TVA power system operators managed a record-setting 165 percent swing in power demand. Unseasonably mild temperatures on Sunday, Jan. 4, lowered demand to only 12,343 megawatts. Meeting Thursday morning’s peak demand meant safely adding 20,380 megawatts of generating capacity while maintaining the reliability of the transmission system.