The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 26, 2014

Power usage hits peak during cold snap

By Bill Archer
For The Register-Herald

—  Cold temperatures on Friday morning seemed to drop the bottom out of thermometers in the area, and greased the wheels of area electric meters while local residents fought off Mother Nature’s subzero chill.

In the Bluefield area, the National Weather Service’s co-op weather observer from Tip Top, Va., in Tazewell County recorded a reading of minus 10 degrees on Friday morning.

“Our power usage usually peaks in the morning hours, but those figures aren’t typically available until sometime on the following day,” Phil Moye Appalachian Power spokesperson, said. “I don’t know how today’s usage level will be but on Jan. 7, we set an unofficial all-time peak.”

On Jan. 7, the temperature in Bluefield dropped to minus 9 degrees, but other readings in more mountainous areas were much lower. By way of comparison, the NWS Bluefield co-op observer reported minus 4 degrees on Friday morning.

APCO customers of the Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee region recorded a peak demand of 8,410 megawatts at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7 — well above the 8,308 megawatts of electricity consumed by APCO customers on Jan. 16, 2009.

“Our service area is a winter peak region,” Moye said. “We have the highest usage levels recorded during the winter months.” Moye said several other regions in the AEP system record peak usage during the summer months.

The majority of APCO’s power still comes from coal-fired power plants, but the percentage is slowly dropping. “The newest plant in our system, the Dresden Plant in Ohio, is a 580-megawatt gas-fired plant,” Moye said. Although he did not immediately know what the current percentage of coal-fired production is, he said APCO’s future production will include a mixture of 71 percent coal-fired, 20 percent gas-fired and 9 percent hydro.

With continued cold temperatures in the forecast, APCO issued a press release earlier this week, asking customers to set their home thermostats at the lowest possible setting to maintain comfort levels, health permitting. “Postpone the use of major electric appliances such as stoves, dishwashers and clothes dryers until midday or after 9 p.m., when the demand for electricity decreases. Turn off unused and unneeded lights and electrical appliances,” according to the APCO press release.