Extreme cold and icy conditions have come to the area and the city of St. James and Intercounty Electric Cooperative are urging residents to conserve energy as much as possible, as demand is stressing power grids. The Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA) has also issued an alert warning of the need conserve power as much as possible.
“Yesterday morning we were alerted by the Municipal Utility Alliance that there was a shortage of natural gas, which means we are at a critical situation with electricity. The southwest power pool has issued an energy emergency alert three,” Mayor Rick Krawiecki explained during a Facebook live post on Tuesday morning. An emergency alert three, he said, means the southwest power pool is operating at capacity and is utilizing operating reserves and has requested assistance through its power sharing group, which could lead to rolling outages, such as those being experienced in Texas.
“Right now, we are not at that stage, but it is a very distinct possibility. A lot of us forget most of our power plants have been converted to natural gas from coal,” Krawiecki said. He added, with freezing temperatures, the demand for natural gas to heat homes and businesses has skyrocketed, stressing the system.
“You’re all probably doing what you can to reduce consumption to save money. If you can do more, we ask you to do what you can to conserve more on electricity and gas,” Krawiecki said. Some industrial businesses have already shut down for the next few days to help save on the energy demands of the city. He said the city only needs to get through this weekend, when warmer temperatures should come to the area.
City Administrator Jim Fleming echoed the mayor’s comments, explaining the MPUA, which is where the city purchases its power, has issued some recommendations for residents to consider to conserve on their power. “We might see rolling blackouts due to the lack of power generation ability for the grid since there is a huge demand for residential natural gas and most power plants have concerted to natural gas. There’s a shortage,” he explained.
“Also, the city uses the power and natural gas and then we get billed for it a month later. We have no idea what it will cost us when we’re supplying it to the consumer. So, our gas cost, since MoGas is having to purchase on the spot market the next few days, will be considerably more than we budgeted for. Same for electricity,” Fleming explained.
MPUA issued some suggestions to help reduce energy usage including:
• Wear layers of clothing and use extra blankets.
• Set the thermostat settings at 68 degrees or as low as possible while you’re at home.
• Lock doors and windows for a better seal. For drafty windows, close storm windows and consider keeping window shades closed for extra insulation.
• Don’t block heating system air vents with furniture, curtains, or rugs.
• Limit the use of natural gas fireplaces and electric space heaters.
• Close fireplace damper when not in use.
• Roll up a towel to put at the bottom of a leaky door to keep drafts at bay.
• Turn off non-essential lights.
• Postpone all non-essential energy use.
• Turn off and unplug computers, monitors, chargers, printers, and televisions when not in use.
Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association (IECA) released similar information for their customers, urging users to reduce usage as much as possible. “Due to extreme and extended cold temperatures, our cooperative system and many utilities throughout the region continue to exceed all-time electricity demand. We are urging members to reduce their impact on the grid by reducing electricity use as much as possible,” IECA said in a statement released on Monday.
“High power consumption levels across the grid have the potential to cause intermittent service disruptions. Taking steps to decrease your power usage at this time will help while we navigate this extreme weather event,” the statement said.
IECA also encouraged users to lower the thermostat to reduce the demand on HVAC systems, use blankets whenever possible to warm up rather than using space heaters or other power consuming options, limit the use of large appliances such as laundry or dishwashers, use smaller kitchen appliances such as toasters and microwaves, and unplugging electronic items throughout the house not in use.
All agencies encourage residents to do their part so services continue to operate as more frigid temperatures and snowfall are expected this week. More information will be offered on social media and the City of St. James and Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association Facebook pages for those wanting to stay up to date with the newest information.