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Peak power demand expected as Arctic air descends on Tennessee

Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 at 3:59 pm

LOGO Duck River ElectricSHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Forecasts for Middle Tennessee and most of the eastern U.S. this week call for a blast of Arctic air to settle over the region, bringing bitter cold and wind chill readings near zero degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday morning. This means demand for electricity to heat homes will be high, and wholesale power costs could skyrocket unless co-op members take steps to conserve electricity.

Duck River Electric Membership Corp. (DREMC) plans to activate Beat the Peak™, the co-op’s residential demand reduction program, on Thursday morning between the hours of 6-8 a.m. Emails and text messages will be sent to 14,000 members, while radio ads across the service territory will warn of the impending peak event.

During periods of extremely low or high temperatures, the wholesale cost of electricity can reach more than $9 per kilowatt-hour, adding millions of dollars to the bill that DREMC must pay the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Co-op members can help “beat the peak” by setting thermostats down 2-3 degrees and taking other energy conservation steps during the hours when highest demand is expected.

“This seems like déjà vu because in 2014 on January 7, we activated Beat the Peak for the first time in response to the polar vortex,” said Michael Watson, president and CEO.

This week’s temperatures could go even lower, according to some forecasts. The range is from 5 to 9 degrees on Thursday morning, when households are preparing for work and school and businesses are gearing up.

EnerNOC, the demand response program for commercial and industrial co-op members, will be ready to activate, if necessary. Combined with Beat the Peak, this gives DREMC a one-two punch for reducing demand – but only if co-op members help.

“We ask that during the two-hour peak expected on Thursday morning, our members take steps to reduce their demand,” Watson said. “We know from past experience that Beat the Peak can save money. It all has to do with the number of folks who heed the warning and take action.”

While reducing thermostat settings has the greatest potential to impact household demand during bitter cold, other conservation measures can also help:

  • Defer hot water use. Give the electric water heater a break by not showering, running the dishwasher or laundering clothes during the peak period.
  • Delay running the clothes dryer.
  • Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.
  • Try not to use the oven or stovetop.

DREMC line crews will be ready in case the extreme cold causes load problems on the system.

TVA has issued a power supply alert, predicting that demand across the region could reach 32,000 megawatts on Thursday morning.

The forecast calls for temperatures to steadily drop on Wednesday, plunging into the teens during the afternoon and single digits after midnight. Not only will power demand peak, the cold brings potentially dangerous conditions for humans and animals.

Make sure outdoor pets and livestock have adequate shelter. If you must go outside, wear appropriate clothing. Avoid situations in which skin might be exposed to the cold as this could result in frostbite.