November 21, 2013 / 7:43 PM / 4 years ago

Alberta power demand hits all-time record due to cold

3 Min Read

Nov 21 (Reuters) - For the second time this week, Alberta's demand for electricity for heating reached an all-time high of 10,677 megawatts on Wednesday due to extreme cold weather in the province, the province's power grid operator said Thursday.

On Tuesday, Alberta's peak demand reached a high of 10,610 MW, breaking the previous record of 10,609 MW of Jan. 16, 2012, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) said in a release.

One megawatt can power about 1,250 homes in Alberta, the AESO said.

Temperatures in Calgary, the biggest city in Alberta, reached just 6 degrees F (-14 C) on Tuesday, and 15 (-9 C) on Wednesday, and were expected to reach 28 degrees F (-2 C) on Thursday.

In Edmonton, the second biggest city in the province, temperatures reached just 8 F (-13 C) on Tuesday, 1 F (-17 C) on Wednesday and were expected to reach 16 F (-9 C) on Thursday.

The AESO said it had enough reserves in place to meet the province's electricity needs.

"Winter is typically the time of year when we see the highest demand on Alberta's power system," Mike Law, Vice President Operations for the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), said in a release.

"A prolonged cold front, reduced daylight hours and overall growing demand are all factors that combine to create the record electricity consumption levels we are presently experiencing," Law said.

On a typical winter day in Alberta, the AESO said demand fluctuates between 8,100 MW to 10,000 MW per hour. A decrease in temperature of just one degree Celsius equates to an additional 23 MW of electricity consumed, the AESO said.

Law said it is rather unusual for Alberta to hit new record peaks this early in the season, in advance of the additional demand that holiday lighting places on the system.

"Having this new record come so early in the winter is a clear indication that power demand in the province is increasing and will only continue to go higher as our economy grows," Law said.

The grid operator recommended Albertans reduce power usage by running major appliances late in the evening, turning off unnecessary lights and non-essential appliances and connecting a timer to a vehicle's block heater.

The biggest power companies in Alberta include a couple municipal utilities, Enmax of Calgary and Epcor of Edmonton, and a few investor owned companies, TransAlta Corp, Atco Ltd and Capital Power Corp.

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