Cold snap brings record electricity demand

Load control efforts were rolled out this week as sub-zero temperatures blanketed Ohio and much of the PJM region.

Buckeye Power reached an all-time high Monday night and the 13-state area served by grid operator PJM set two winter records on Tuesday.

Ohio’s electric cooperatives used an estimated 1,789 megawatts of electricity for the hour ending at 7 p.m. Monday. This is the highest demand experienced by Ohio’s cooperatives.

Across the PJM territory, electricity use hit 138,733 MW Tuesday morning and then peaked at 141,312 MW that evening for the hour ending at 7 p.m.

The previous winter peak of 136,675 MW happened in 2007. (PJM’s all-time peak demand is 163,848 MW.)

Buckeye Power activated load control in the AEP and Duke transmission zones Monday night, and in the AEP zone Tuesday morning and Tuesday evening. Control was planned for Wednesday morning but canceled after forecasts for more extreme temperatures changed.

Craig Grooms, Buckeye Power’s director of Resource Scheduling, noted Buckeye was able to control approximately 60 megawatts of water heater load along with some supplemental heating systems.

PJM had enacted its Maximum Emergency Generation Action during the cold snap, meaning the grid operator could curtail sales going outside the PJM region.

“The generation reserve margins were less than the required level,” he said. “If they had lost any major units over the peak hours, they would have had a big problem.”

Tuesday’s record demand pushed power prices up past $1,500 per megawatt-hour for a time early in the day. (At midday Thursday, prices were back to around $40/MWh.)

The demand for natural gas for power plants and home heating put a strain on the delivery system.

“We’ve had some fuel interruptions on the natural gas system where units have not been able to get fuel,” PJM’s Michael Kormos said earlier this week. “We’ve had units trying to convert to backup fuel that were not successful starting up.”

PJM’s call for consumers to reduce electricity use ended on Wednesday.

“Our thanks go to all of the consumers who heeded our call (Tuesday) to conserve electricity,” said PJM President and CEO Terry Boston. “Consumers’ conservation had a direct impact on our ability to meet everyone’s electricity needs and helped us manage a very tight power supply caused by the extreme cold across all 13 states.”