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Cold Weather Leads To Record Demand For Electricity From Basin Federal Power System
December 19, 2008, Columbia Basin Bulletin
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 Pacific Northwest.

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 Willamette projects.

"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 operating.

"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 Montana.

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 others.


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