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Cold snap strains electric grid, DP&L users asked to conserve

DP&L customers are being asked to voluntarily curb their electricity use during this current run of frigid cold and subzero temperatures.

That’s not the case with Duke energy customers, who were issued an alert Tuesday to curb their electricity use because of potential problems with supplying service throughout the Midwest power grid.

PJM Interconnection, the power grid agency for the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest, took emergency steps to meet surging demand as subzero temperatures forced power plants to shut, grid officials said Tuesday in Houston.

The National Weather Service warned that temperatures were expected to be 25 degrees to 35 degrees Fahrenheit below normal (minus 14-19 Celsius) from the Midwest to the Southeast.

“This particular cold is far-reaching and most of our neighbors are experiencing the extreme conditions we are,” said Michael Kormos, PJM executive vice president for operations.

Kormos said a large number of power plants in the region stretching from Delaware to Ohio to Tennessee were struggling to operate in the harsh sub-freezing temperatures.

PJM has asked consumers to curb power use as demand rose later Tuesday to avoid potential rolling outages.

Kormos cited weather-related mechanical failures and natural gas supply problems, as well as normal generation issues, for power plants being knocked offline Tuesday.

While temperatures in the Dayton region are the lowest in 20 years in terms of subzero temperatures for an extended period of time, “We do not have any issues with our power grid or available power to our customers,” said Mary Ann Kabel, director of corporate communications for Dayton Power & Light.

While DP&L is asking customers to voluntarily consume energy, the utility is asking customers “to be respectful and mindful that there are a lot of people without power in our area,” Kabel said. Being respectful and mindful means turning off unnecessary lights in the home and not overheating the home via the thermostat, especially during the peak use hours of 3 to 7 p.m., she said.

Approximately 11,000 DP&L customers were without power at the peak of this week’s storm, which started Sunday. An estimated 140 customers were without service Tuesday afternoon, Kabel said.

Demand in the Dayton service area peaked at 3200 megawatts during the height of this most recent storm, which was Monday, she said, and that draw on power in this service area was 10 percent less than the peak reached in January 1994.

Kabel said Aug. 8, 2007, was the highest ever peak for the DP&L service area, when 3700 megawatts were in use.

PJM issued an alert Monday to warn power-plant operators that system conditions would require them to be available to meet soaring demand.

Plant operators brought plants back online as quickly as possible, making it difficult for PJM to quantify the number of units, or total generation, offline, Kormos said.

“The units have been asked to run an extra long time with the cold we’ve been seeing,” he said.

PJM ordered a systemwide 5 percent voltage reduction on Monday evening to conserve power, but did not repeat the call Tuesday, Kormos said.

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