published Saturday, January 25th, 2014

TVA sets winter record for power demand

Timothy Gray crawls across ice at the edge of the partially frozen Dallas Bay at Chester Frost Park in Hixson.
Timothy Gray crawls across ice at the edge of the partially frozen Dallas Bay at Chester Frost Park in Hixson.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

Electricity use soared to a record peak in the Tennessee Valley on Friday when another Artic blast of cold weather pushed temperatures into single digits across the Tennessee Valley for the second time this month.

After setting a new one-day record for power consumption on Jan. 7, TVA set a new winter peak record for electricity consumption at 7 a.m. EST on Friday when temperatures across the utility's 7-state region averaged only 7 degrees.

With all of its available power generators in full production and other purchased power available, TVA supplied a winter record of 33,345 megawatts of electricity on Friday without having to limit power to the 9 million people served by TVA, including nearly all of the 1,200 customers who are on interruptible service contracts. Although TVA reduced power for most interruptible contract customers on Jan. 7, the federal utility managed Friday to meet the high demand without having to use its option of limiting power deliveries for all but a single customer.

"We applied some of the lessons learned from our previous high-demand period for better load balancing and we had some really good performance from our gas-powered fleet (of electricity generators) to meet an even higher peak demand," TVA spokesman Jim Hopson.

Friday's peak was the third highest ever in the 81-year history of TVA. The all-time peak demand record for TVA is at 33,482 megawatts, set on Aug. 16, 2007, when temperatures averaged 102 degrees.

Chattanooga Gas Co., which supplies natural gas for residential heating in Hamilton and Bradley counties, set a peak-day record on Jan. 6 at 133 million cubic feet of gas sold when temperatures in Chattanooga fell to a low of 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Friday's use of gas was not as hig. But this January in Chattanooga is 42 percent colder than last year so far, according to Kristie Swing Benson, manager of public relations for AGL Resources, the parent company of Chattanooga Gas.

"The demand for natural gas is the highest we have seen in recent years," she siad "But we have not curtailed service to any of our interruptible customers this week. However, it is possible that third party supppliers have made the requires to curtail natural gas usage."

In the Tennessee Valley, 56.4 percent of the homes are heated with electric furnaces or heat pumps while another 35.2 percent are heated with natural gas furnaces, according to TVA and Department of Energy surveys.

On Thursday and Friday amid the subfreezing weather, TVA and some gas and propane suppliers asked customers to voluntarily limit their energy use by dialing down their thermostats, shutting off lights and delaying use of some appliances.

TVA and its 155 power distributors also cut their own power use by 75 megawatts through a combination of reduced voltage power delivery in some areas and cutbacks on heating and lighting at most power facilities, TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said.

"For the second time this month, TVA sincerely thanks everyone across the seven-state TVA service area for conserving energy and helping us provide a safe, reliable flow of electricity during this latest cold wave," TVA Transmision Vice President Tim Ponseti said in a statement Friday. "The effort made by our employees and customers during this round of bitterly cold weather exemplifies the teamwork and skill required to provide low-cost, reliable power."

TVA met the peak demand by relying upon a mix of power generation, including 29 percent of its power from coal-fired plants, 21 percent from nuclear plants, 24 percent from natural gas plants, 12 percent from hydroelectric dams, 2 percent from wind farms and 12 percent from power market purchases, Mansfield said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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