Will the frigid temperatures lead to rolling blackouts in Columbia? Not very likely, officials say
Extremely cold temperatures Monday led some cities in Missouri to temporarily cut off power to residents to maintain energy reserves, a method known as rolling blackouts.
That likely won't happen in Columbia, according to Boone Electric Cooperative and Columbia Water and Light.
Boone Electric still is asking customers to conserve their energy usage, however.
Boone Electric uses coal-fired plants, natural gas and wind turbines for its electric production. But the below-freezing temperatures mean the turbines aren't spinning.
There is an increased reliance on coal and natural gas, and the cooperative is trying to keep its coal reserves from dropping below required amounts, Boone Electric Communications Specialist Meredith Hoenes said.
"Our energy reserves that we are required to have at our power plants are sitting above the required minimum," she said.
If the reserves were to fall below the required minimums, that is a time when the cooperative would have to start considering other options, including rolling blackouts.
"We should make it through Friday without any concerns," Hoenes said. "I don't have any fear Boone Electric is going to have shut anyone off. We have had really good response from our members, who are taking the conservation seriously."
The cooperative generally has about a one- to two-month reserve of coal at its plant outside of Moberly. The coal it uses comes from Wyoming.
"We are asking members to conserve so that we don't have to get to that point," Hoenes said about reserves falling below required minimums.
Places like Kansas City are below their reserve minimums, which is leading to the rolling blackouts, she said.
Energy companies in western and southwest Missouri discontinued the use of rolling electricity blackouts late Tuesday morning after imposing the blackouts earlier to reduce the strain on electrical systems during record-setting cold weather.
The blackouts early Tuesday came as most of Missouri endured another day where high temperatures were expected to struggle to get above single digits. Kansas City's overnight temperatures dropped to minus 10 and were forecast to peak at 11 on Tuesday.
The utility companies imposed the blackouts on Monday and early Tuesday under order from the Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities across 14 states, because the supply of reserve energy had been exhausted.
The Southwest Power Pool lifted the order about 10:45 a.m. Tuesda and utility companies said their customers should have power returned quickly.
Evergy said its blackouts Tuesday morning affected about 100,000 customers in western Missouri and eastern Kansas Tuesday for between 30 and 90 minutes.
Boone Electric is asking customers to turn thermostats down as much as 3 degrees, wear more clothes and cover up with more blankets. While space heaters may seem like an alternative option, they are a considerable energy user, Hoenes said.
"If you have to use a space heater, try to only use it in the room where you are and then use it intermittently," she said. "If you can turn it on for 30 minutes, turn it off for 30 minutes. Turn it on for an hour, turn it off for (90 minutes)."
Those with fireplaces should close down the dampers to prevent warm air escaping.
The cooperative is encouraging those with plumbing concerns related to freezing pipes to direct those to plumbers. Customers should avoid doing laundry or running the dishwasher during this cold snap.
Gaming systems should be unplugged. It is less of a concern to leave phone chargers plugged in. Even though TVs use less energy than in the past, if a person can watch something on a fully charged tablet or phone instead, that would help, Hoenes said.
"We want to keep our energy resources above the minimum reserve amount," she said. "Most people don't like hearing this, but to keep our piles of coal that we have, we want to go through it as slow as possible so we always have lights on."
Monday's temperatures and energy usage will help the cooperative set its winter peak level for the next year.
"Our members have used more energy (Monday) than they have ever used energy before," Hoenes said. "So we will, from this point forward, always base our energy load off that number in the winter."
The focus and goal of the cooperative is to always have more energy availability than peak loads.
Columbia Water and Light is on a different power grid than Boone Electric. There are no concerns there will be temperature-related outages in Columbia, Columbia Utilities Public Information Specialist Matt Nestor said.
Columbia Utilities is a member of Midcontinent Independent System Operator in its central region. While the central region for MISO is not having any forced outages, they are happening for its south region in Texas.
"The rolling blackouts other companies are working with does not affect Columbia Water and Light," Nestor said.
Columbia Water and Light saw a peak usage of 225 megawatts of energy at 7 p.m. Monday when the temperature was at minus-1.
Usage decreased as of Tuesday with a peak of 214 megawatts at 8 a.m.
When compared to temperature averages of a high of 44 and a low of 25 for Tuesday, energy usage would be at a max of 155 megawatts and a low of 125 megawatts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.