With the recent record cold, many areas experienced rolling blackouts due to demand on the power grid exceeding what was available, but Paragould was not among them.

“We were lucky,” said Paragould Light, Water and Cable Chief Operations Officer Brett Bradford on Friday morning. Bradford explained that electricity usage reached an highest-ever-recorded peak of 3,091 megawatts (MW) on Feb. 15 (compared to a 10 year average daily peak for February of 2,095 MW). He added that given the record usage in the system, some cities in both Arkansas and Missouri in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) did experience rolling blackouts. “We were given forewarning from SPP on Tuesday that this might happen,” Bradford said. “But the load dropped.”

Bradford said PLWC had also been able to take some proactive measures in addition to asking its customers to reduce consumption.

“What we did was to buy ‘firm’ energy,” he said. “What that means is you buy a day ahead instead of [in] ‘real time.’”

Bradford acknowledged, however, that “firm” energy costs more than “real-time” energy. In effect, “firm” energy constitutes making a reservation for the specified amount of energy to be bought. “Real-time energy is cheaper,” he said, “but the risk of waiting to buy it in real time [i.e. on the day it’s needed] is that it may not be there to buy.”

Bradford explained that when an overload occurs – when demand for power exceeds supply, as SPP had warned on Feb. 16 might happen – real-time energy availability is what gets reduced first. Once all the real-time energy has been cut, the firm energy is then subject to cuts. Bradford reiterated the crisis had passed before it reached that point.

“So all the lights stayed on,” he said, “and there were no cuts.”

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