Winter Storm straining area power companies: Rolling blackouts a ‘possibility’

Electricity demand has nearly exceeded the capacity‘This is an emergency situation’

Winter Storm straining area power companies: Rolling blackouts a ‘possibility’
As a Winter Storm bears down on Region 8, bringing heavy snows and Arctic temperatures, many residents are raising their thermostats. But several power companies say the demand has nearly exceeded their capacity. (Source: KEYC)

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - With temperatures dipping in the single-digits and below-zero, utility companies are struggling to keep up with the demand and warn that rolling blackouts are possible if customers do not immediately turn down their thermostats.

On Monday, after several companies reported demand had nearly exceeded their capacity, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management urged residents to immediately conserve energy as much as possible.

“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,” said A.J. Gary, director of the ADEM.


The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas asked members on Monday to immediately limit their use of electric service for the next 24 hours.

“Due to the extremely cold weather and the unusually high requirement for electricity, electric cooperatives and other electric utilities across Arkansas and surrounding states have reached a point where electricity demand has nearly exceeded the capacity,” the co-op stated in a news release.

Customers should voluntarily limit use of non-essential electricity and appliances, especially electric water heaters, clothes dryers and dishwashers. Members should also turn thermostats to lower settings.

The cooperative emphasized that “voluntary cooperation” is essential.

“We need our members to reduce their usage during this unprecedented time,” NAEC CEO Mel Coleman said. “Turn off non-essential lights, postpone washing clothes and dishes, lower the thermostat and reduce use of space heaters if at all possible.”

According to Andrew Lachowsky, vice president of planning and market operations for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, “this is an emergency situation and that rolling electrical outages are possible, unless electric consumption is reduced immediately.”

“If voluntary reductions are not sufficient to maintain continuity of service, it may be necessary to begin interruption of electric service to specific areas for limited time periods,” the company stated. “It is not presently anticipated that this type of rotating curtailments will be necessary.”


Entergy Arkansas reported Monday that high demand for electricity posed “unique obstacles” for its crews.

“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, vice president of customer service. “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,”

According to the utility company, the colder than normal temperatures have led to a large number of customers increasing the heat in their homes.

An increase in demand, according to Entergy, 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,” the news release stated. “Once power is restored, customers should gradually power on appliances and heating systems to prevent a high level of instantaneous demand.”

With rolling blackouts across the country, Region 8 News’ Amanda Hanson asked Entergy Arkansas’ Matt Faries if that could happen in Region 8.

“It’s been discussed as a possibility. It looks like at this point we’re going to get through this night without going that route,” Faries said.


Jonesboro City Water and Light said Monday its transmission operator, MISO, had requested utilities in the region to ask customers to “voluntarily” reduce their electricity usage.

“This is especially needed during the hours of 5-9 p.m.,” Keven Inboden with CWL told Region 8 News. “This is not a request for mandatory curtailments, but a precautionary action to help accommodate the reliability of providing for all customers throughout Arkansas during these cold temperatures.”


CenterPoint Energy, which provides natural gas to about 400,000 residential and business customers in Arkansas, made a similar plea Sunday to its customers.

The utility suggested lowering thermostat settings to 60-65 degrees during the day when at home and an additional 5-10 degrees when asleep or away from home through Thursday, Feb. 18.

“This step can help ensure that all customers continue to have gas service to stay safe and warm during the intensely cold weather,” CenterPoint Energy stated.

If a customer experiences a loss of gas service, they should contact the utility at 800-992-7552.


The unprecedented weather also caused Paragould Light Water and Cable to experience “extremely high electric loads.”

“This is not only affecting Paragould but the electric industry across the SPP (Southwest Power Pool),” the utility company stated in a Monday news release. “Paragould operates in the SPP control area and we have been asked to conserve energy in all facets of our system.”

SPP stated on Twitter it had declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 “signaling that its operating reserves are below the required minimum.”


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Piggott Municipal Light Water and Sewer

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