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SWEPCO hits record for usage in winter

By Sarah Thomas sthomas@news-journal.com
Jan. 14, 2014 at 10 p.m.


This past week's arctic blast drove temperatures so low that AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. hit a record winter customer load of more than 16 percent above what the company had projected, officials said.

"We're a summer peaking utility," said SWEPCO spokesman Scott McCloud, citing the company serves western Arkansas, northwest and central Louisiana and East Texas, which experience summer temperatures that often reach into the triple digits. "So we really monitor it more in the summer. That's where our demand is highest, mainly due to air conditioners."

However, he said, the polar vortex that swept through much of the country earlier this month turned the tables.

At 8 a.m. Jan. 7, SWEPCO customers used 4,892 megawatts of electricity, McCloud said in a statement. The average temperature across the company's three-state service area was 26 degrees at that date and time, McCloud said.

The company's previous winter demand record was Feb. 2, 2011, when customers used 4,823 megawatts. One million watts make up a megawatt.

"That was our all-time winter peak. So it is the peak out of all the winters we've been in business," McCloud said.

Those megawatts were consumed by the 524,000 (182,000 in East Texas) customers in western Arkansas, northwest and central Louisiana and East Texas - a 33,000-square mile service area, McCloud said.

SWEPCO is one of 64 members of the Southwest Power Pool, a regional reliability council within the Eastern Grid, which McCloud said can help in emergency situations when customer use threatens to outpace what SWEPCO can produce.

"If you have an emergency on your system, you can go into other members and purchase electricity they don't need," he said.

McCloud could not say how close the grid was to not being able to handle this past week's demand.

"If there was an emergency situation, you would've known about it," he said.

Lisa May of the National Weather Service, said Tuesday afternoon that the mercury is not expected to fall as far as it did this past week.

The highs for the next few days are expected to hover around 60, while 34 will be the average low, she said.

"Friday night is our lowest night we have forecast out, and that will be 28," May said. "Our highs are going to be higher even though our lows will be pretty chilly and right above freezing. It won't be anything like before."

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