Winter weather put a damper on energy supplies with electric and natural gas providers requesting customers limit their use of services.

According to Andrew Lachowsky, vice president of planning and market operations for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, the recent snow, ice, and cold temperatures created an emergency situation making rolling electrical outages possible, unless electric consumption was reduced.

He said because of the extremely cold weather and the unusually high requirement for electricity, Arkansas’s electric cooperatives and other regional utilities reached a point where demand for electricity exceeded the supply.

“The current load forecasts are approaching an all-time winter peak, even greater than those experienced during the polar vortex of January 2019,” said Michael Considine, Entergy Arkansas’s vice president of customer service. 

If the power supply cannot meet the demand, then periodic power outages would be needed to prevent an extensive power outage that could last an extended period.

Arkansas Division of Emergency Management Director A.J. Gary said that while “natural gas continues to be a reliable source of energy … these are unusual circumstances and the call for conservation this week is one that will help the utilities while they work to keep wellheads functioning.”

“This is an unprecedented time,” said Lachowsky, “and we urge electric cooperative members to immediately reduce the use of electrical requirements by turning off or not using non-essential lights and electric appliances, especially electric water heaters, clothes dryers, and dishwashers and to turn heating thermostats to lower settings.”

ADEM pointed out that consumption of natural gas can be reduced by lowering thermostats at night. The department also recommended setting thermostats between 60 and 65 degrees during the day when at home, and lowering the setting an additional 5-10 degrees when away from home. Consumers can also lower the temperature of hot water heaters as well as limit the consumption of hot water.

Arkansans can further reduce their energy footprint within their homes by reducing the number of rooms they use during prolonged cold weather events. It was recommended to select several rooms to use during winter weather events and close doors to rooms that are not being used in an effort to reduce heating efforts to other parts of the home. Also, it may be a good idea to have a few extra layers of clothing, blankets, water and other preparedness items readily available in the rooms where household members will spend time.

Entergy Arkansas offered similar advice to its customers while asking them to:

• Lower the central thermostat to 68 degrees or lower if possible.

• Open blinds and draperies to let in warmth from the sun during the daytime.

• Delay laundry, washing dishes, bathing and other non-essential uses of electricity until this appeal for conservation has ended.

• Wash clothes with cold water, cook foods at the lowest possible setting and refrain from opening the oven door while baking.

• Don’t allow warmed air to escape from the home.

Considine also noted that the “high demand for electricity poses unique obstacles when crews work to restore electricity when the power goes out.”

Colder than normal temperatures during the early morning and overnight hours can prompt a large number of customers to increase the heat used in their homes and therefore the demand, company officials said, which can cause voltage variations and repeated power disruptions.

If customers lose electricity, they can help with restore times by turning off major appliances and heating units. Once power is restored, customers should gradually power on appliances and heating systems to prevent a high level of instantaneous demand.

Entergy crews have taken proactive steps to mitigate the impact of the extreme cold to its system, including placing additional power generation into service and adding additional personnel to crews to monitor facilities, however, “we ask you to be particularly mindful of your energy use during this extreme cold to help reduce the strain on the electric system by practicing safe energy conservation efforts,” Considine said.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this request may cause,” said Kurt Castleberry, Entergy’s director of Resource Planning and Market Operations, “but the extreme temperatures for consecutive days are driving up electricity usage. This is an unusual situation driven by extreme weather conditions much of the country is experiencing. We are working to respond and bring the electric system back to a normal operational state as soon as possible.”

Castleberry added that the request does not apply to elderly customers or those with special health concerns.

As of press time frigid temperatures and an additional winter weather storm were forecast through the week. Taking steps now to reduce the strain on energy sources will help Arkansans prepare for the next round of winter weather, according to ADEM.

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