The Bonneville Power
Administration reported Thursday that the federal power system
is keeping up with a record demand for electricity even as
below freezing weather continues its grip on most of the
According to the Northwest Power Pool,
the highest regional demand for electricity ever was recorded
on Monday, Dec. 15, at a peak of 63,252 megawatts (MW). This
substantially beat the last record peak of 60,103 MW that was
set in the winter of 2007.
"Electric utilities large and small across the Northwest
and into portions of Canada are seeing an extreme demand for
electricity, especially as the cold continues to linger," said
Paul Norman, senior vice president for power services at BPA.
"The federal power system is in good shape so far to meet
heightened needs for electricity for the utilities we serve.
At the same time, we are working with our federal partners to
balance other important river obligations, such as for
fisheries operations and navigation."
Norman said that BPA's weather forecasters saw the storm
events coming together early last week, and the agency
immediately began coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation - operators of the federal
dams and associated power plants - to take actions that could
result in higher power production during the cold spell.
These steps included BPA making advance power purchases and
the agencies together adjusting schedules for planned unit
maintenance at the hydro projects and coordinating use of
reservoir flexibility at Libby, Grand Coulee and the
"We're really thankful that our forecasters raised the
caution flag early so that the federal agencies had adequate
time to plan for this cold spell," said Norman. "As with any
extreme weather event, one can never promise what will happen
next, but so far the system has been holding up well with all
the demands being placed upon it."
Generally, the highest consumer demand for electricity
occurs between 8 and 10 a.m. and then again between 4 and 5
p.m. Weekend electricity consumption is typically lower, as
many larger businesses and commercial complexes are not
"The fact that electricity use often is lower on weekends
than weekdays may help us if this cold weather continues to
linger into the coming weekend," Norman said.
Meanwhile, BPA's transmission system experts do not report
any unusual weather-related impacts to the grid at this time.
BPA is a not-for-profit federal electric utility that
markets more than a third of the electricity consumed in the
Pacific Northwest. The power is produced at 31 federal dams
and one nuclear plant in the Northwest and is sold to more
than 140 Northwest utilities. BPA operates a high-voltage
transmission grid comprising more than 15,000 miles of lines
and associated substations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and
The Northwest Power Pool is a voluntary forum in the
electrical industry that addresses reliability and operational
adequacy issues in the Northwest. The group includes members
such as BPA, large Northwest utilities such as Portland
General Electric and Puget Sound Energy, as well as several