KU: Cold spell pushes electricity consumption to record levels

jwarren@herald-leader.comJanuary 7, 2014 

The Republic Bank sign at 3608 Walden Drive in Lexington displayed a reading seven degrees below zero Tuesday morning. The temperature went below zero in much of Kentucky when a polar vortex moved through the state Monday.

PHOTO BY CHARLES BERTRAM | STAFF — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

This week's arctic cold spell has pushed electricity consumption in Central Kentucky to record levels, Kentucky Utilities said Tuesday.

KU spokesman Cliff Feltham said customers used an average of 5,027 megawatt hours of electricity between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Monday. That's a record for a one-hour peak for the KU system, Feltham said.

It easily exceeded KU's previous all-time high of 4,640 megawatt hours, set on Jan. 16, 2009, when the temperature fell to three degrees below zero, he said.

The current cold wave also has produced the greatest consumption of electricity for a 24-hour period on KU's system.

Feltham said KU customers used 102,613 megawatt hours of electricity between midnight Sunday and midnight Monday as the cold wave began.

"That's the first time the KU system has ever gone over 100,000 megawatt hours in a 24-hour period," Feltham said Tuesday.

KU's previous 24-hour consumption record was 97,321 megawatt hours, set on Jan. 8, 2010, Feltham said.

KU started asking customers Monday night to turn down thermostats, turn off unnecessary lights and generally limit electrical consumption to ease demands on the system and prevent outages. Customers have complied with the request, and that has limited problems, he said.

But he said KU is asking customers to continue voluntary conservation measures until the temperature returns to the 20- to 30-degree range.

Feltham said the recent deep freeze isn't the only reason electrical consumption has shot up.

He said KU had relatively little problem meeting demand when Kentucky temperatures fell to about minus-20 in the 1980s. So why has demand increased so sharply with the temperature at "only" six or eight degrees below zero?

"We have many more electrical devices than we had a few years ago: TVs in every room, cellphones and computers plugged to be recharged," he said. "They all consume electricity, and it all adds up."

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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