Extreme cold produced a near record-breaking demand for electricity in Alberta on Jan. 13, 2020. (Photo contributed by City of Red Deer)

Red Deer responds to high electricity demand in Alberta

Residents should reduce energy use during cold snap

Red Deer and other Alberta cities reduced electricity voltage levels by three per cent on the instruction of the Alberta Electric System Operator Monday evening.

Due to the extreme cold, the province experienced near record-breaking demand for electricity and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) issued level one and level two alerts. All power needs were being met, but the system was using reserves.

Those alerts ended Monday night.

Jim Jorgensen, manager of City of Red Deer’s Electric Light and Power department, said power was not cut to anybody in the city.

“There is a range of what the voltage can be so we are able to just step that down and that reduces consumption. Everybody within the province would have received that same direction and had to do the same thing,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen said reducing voltage is like reducing the speed of a vehicle, which reduces the amount of gas used, but still allows people to get to their destination.

He said the needs of people are still met, and everything still works, when voltage is reduced a little.

In the last eight years while working with the city, he said cities have been put on notice less than half a dozen times that the system was starting to be stretched.

A level three alert by the AESO, which was not issued Monday, would mean some power would be lost in parts of the province until enough generation returns to the grid, or power usage is reduced to a point where supply and demand balanced.

Jorgensen said while working for Red Deer he could not recall a level three alert being issued.

He said power generation was sufficient Tuesday to meet requirements and residents should not be concerned. The province manages enough contingencies to address a generation problem should it arise.

AESO was closely monitoring the system with continued cold temperatures in the forecast and would notify Albertans if grid conditions worsen.


Red Deer one of coldest places on planet Tuesday morning

City of Red Deer believes it has found source of power outages

To reduce power consumption, AESO encouraged Albertans to turn off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances; minimize the use of space heaters; delay the use of major power-consuming appliances such as washers, dryers and dishwashers until after the peak hours of 5 to 7 p.m.; use cold water for washing clothes, and only run full loads; cook with microwaves, crock pots or toaster ovens instead of stoves; limit the use of kitchen or bathroom ventilation fans; use motion detector lights in storage areas, garages, and outdoors when possible; and work on laptops instead of a desktop computers.

Jorgensen said it is always wise to try and reduce electricity consumption.

“We’ll be in a fairly prolonged stretch of cold weather so there will be a lot of demand on the system.”

He said city buildings generally only use as much electricity as is needed.


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