Electric Companies Ask Customers To Conserve

Utilities Seeing Usage Spike As Cold Lingers

Posted: January 29, 2014

HARRISONBURG — Plummeting temperatures across the Valley and much of the nation have caused spikes in electric usage, and power companies are asking customers to conserve as much energy as possible.

There haven’t been any recent power issues because of the cold, and electric companies say there’s no reason for concern. Demand is up, though, and Harrisonburg Electric Commission and Dominion Virginia Power have seen record usage spikes this month.

The Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative and Dominion Virginia Power have been requesting that their customers curb their energy consumption as much as possible as temperatures struggle to rise above freezing. The recent cold snaps make heating systems work harder to keep homes warmer, so customers can expect to see higher costs if they don’t try to conserve energy.

Lowering the heat even just a couple of degrees can result in big electricity savings, according to Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman Daisy Pridgen. Customers may see as much as 3 percent in savings for each degree they lower the thermostat, Pridgen said.

“Set thermostats at 68 degrees,” she said. “As low as you can set it to where you remain comfortable and safe.”

She also suggested customers turn off lights and unplug appliances not in use, as anything that’s plugged in draws electricity even when turned off. Big appliances, such as washing machines, dryers and dishwashers, should be used at off-peak hours, such as late at night or early in the morning.

Harrisonburg Electric Commission gets much of its electricity from Dominion Virginia Power, but has not put out a call for its customers to be extra mindful of their energy usage during the cold snap.

“As we speak, it’s not going to impact HEC adversely under what we anticipate the conditions to be,” said General Manager Brian O’Dell. “If we felt like our system would not be able to handle the additional load, then we would ask for help from our consumers, but we don’t anticipate any issues.”

Mike Aulgur, manager of external affairs at SVEC, said conservation should be year-round, but it’s especially important when demand is at its highest. SVEC asked its customers on Monday to reduce their energy usage during the coldest days.

“We ask people to conserve however much they can as much as they can,” he said.

Aulgur and Pridgen said they were passing along a request from PJM Interconnection, which serves as the electricity grid operator for 13 states and Washington, D.C. PJM asked its 61 million customers on Monday to be mindful of their energy consumption through Tuesday, when it would be highest.

Tuesday was the 10th time the central Valley has seen temperatures at or below 10 degrees this month, according to Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling. It’s been about 20 years since the area has had a January with so many days so far below freezing, he said.

Today’s high is expected to be in the mid-20s, but the low will drop to about 5 this evening, Jackson said. Temperatures will continue to slowly creep up above freezing later this week, likely rising to highs in the mid-50s by Saturday.

Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or kcloos@dnronline.com

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