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Grid Operators Set New Power Demand Records With Extreme Weather in January

Power grid operators have shattered prior power demand records this month in the wake of extreme cold weather that has gripped much of the country.

The Southwest Power Pool on Jan. 18 reported that it reached a new record January peak load of 46,712 megawatts on Jan. 17, surpassing the previous peak of 43,181 MW set in 2018.

SPP, a regional transmission organization, has members in 14 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas on Jan. 18 reported that between Jan. 14-16, it set five new all-time winter records and 6 new January peak demand records as Texas faced extreme winter temperatures the week of Jan. 15.

BPA, TVA Also Break Records

The Bonneville Power Administration’s load peaked at 11,396 MW on Saturday, January 13, during the 11 a.m. hour.

This is a record in “modern,” or post-aluminum smelter, BPA Area Load, noted BPA spokesperson Kevin Wingert.

The previous “modern” record was set on Dec. 22, 2022, with 11,068 MW. The all-time peak load (with aluminum smelters) was 11,930 MW set in 1990.

For context, area loads above 10,000 MW are uncommon and tend to only be observed during significant cold snaps, Wingert said.

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s system remained reliable and resilient last week as bitter cold, single-digit temperatures drove power demand on the system to record-breaking levels because more electricity was needed to heat homes and businesses, TVA said on Jan. 22.

TVA provided the following details on the record-breaking power demand:

  • Highest recorded peak in TVA history: Preliminary data shows 34,524 megawatts at 8 a.m. CT Wednesday, Jan. 17.
  • Second highest peak in TVA history and highest recorded peak on a weekend day: 34,284 megawatts at 8 a.m. CT on Sunday, Jan. 21, per preliminary data.
  • Highest amount of power delivered in one week: Preliminary data shows that Jan. 15-21, TVA supplied 4,790 GWh of power -- the highest since the last record of 4,633 GWh January 2010.

TVA noted that it began preparing to meet this challenge in the aftermath of Winter Storm Elliott.

Since then, TVA has invested nearly $123 million and completed 3,400 winter readiness activities to harden the system and enhance reliability and resiliency at coal, gas, and hydro-electric facilities. This year, TVA will invest $120 million above regular funding levels to specifically focus on enhancing the reliability of its generation fleet.

“We started preparing for this winter immediately following Winter Storm Elliott,” said Aaron Melda, TVA Senior Vice President of Power Supply Operations. “We were focused on getting it right for the 10 million customers who depend on the power we provide. Our focus was to make the critical investments needed to meet growing electricity demand while maintaining low rates that will ensure our region’s energy security as we move to a clean energy future.”  

To meet the region’s growing power demand, TVA added approximately 1,400 megawatts of fast start, new natural gas units its Paradise and Colbert plants.

An additional 500 megawatts are scheduled to come online when TVA completes additional generation at its Johnsonville plant.

TVA announced plans in August to invest $15 billion over the next three years to meet the region’s growth.   

The transmission system remained stable and secure throughout the recent winter weather, TVA noted.

 TVA experienced no fuel-supply challenges; only 3% of the fleet was unavailable during peaks and technicians were able to return units to service within hours on the same day.

TVA and local power companies requested the public conserve power ahead of Wednesday’s record peak and those efforts were helpful.

“We are grateful to our employees, and our local power company partners, who worked around the clock. Because of their work as well as the conservation efforts of our local power companies and all the people across the region, we were able to successfully supply power to keep everyone warm and safe during these extreme winter conditions,” Melda said.



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