Duke Energy is urging customers to conserve energy during the cold because it’s worried that customers could cause blackouts or brownouts by using too much energy.
The cold causes two problems: First, it can hurt utilities’ equipment. For instance, two large power plants in north Texas shut down yesterday when their instruments froze. At the same time, it causes people to use more energy, compounding the problem.
“Cranking that heat up when it’s in the single digits or teens, that’s a lot of electricity to produce,” Duke Energy spokeswoman Catherine Butler says. “And so there is part of that that causes strain on the system.”
Power companies produce electricity as demand happens. Capacity is very large, but not infinite. In Texas, the spike in power use, combined with damage to those power plants, had the state’s grid manager warning of possible rolling brownouts.
In South Carolina, Duke attributes to the cold several thousand customers losing power Monday night in Greenville and Oconee counties.
Duke is asking customers to unplug unused appliances, turn thermostats down when they’re not home, and postpone using the dishwasher, laundry machines, or performing other power-hungry chores.