Utilities in Northeast Arkansas are warning customers to reduce electrical usage during the unprecedented cold and snow.

According to announcements from both Paragould Light, Water and Cable (PLWC) and Craighead Electric Cooperative, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) is asking all member utilities to ask their customers to reduce usage to avoid an overload.

“The entire system is experiencing record usage with these low temperatures,” said PLWC CEO Darrell Phillips on Feb. 15. “It should be about 50 degrees for a high.”

According to the National Weather Service, the predicted high for Monday, Feb. 15 was 13 degrees, with a low of 3. The high for Feb. 16 is predicted to be 20, with a low of -2; while the high for Wednesday, Feb. 17 is 26 with a low of 11.

“The Southwest Power Pool is asking people to lower their thermostats a few degrees,” Phillips said, “turn off unnecessary lights and do anything else to reduce consumption so we don’t have an overload.”

Philips explained that a system overload would require SPP to shut down some circuits to reduce consumption among member utilities. “They’d tell us to curtail our load,” he said. “They’d say to cut a certain percentage off our load, and leave it up to us how to do it.”

Such a curtailment, Phillips said, could entail rolling blackouts of limited duration across areas of Paragould. “So whatever you can do to keep that from happening will help,” he said.

As announced by PLWC on its Facebook Page, the utility cited the “unprecedented weather conditions” in noting “extremely high electric loads” not only in Paragould but across the entirety of the SPP region. “We have been asked to conserve energy in all facets of our system,” the utility said in its post. “We will keep you updated as we work through this.”

The SPP region includes all of Kansas and Oklahoma, and portions of New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, Wyoming, and Nebraska. The interconnections of electric systems through the SPP enable a given system to secure additional electricity from neighboring systems. The extreme cold weather, however, is widespread, imposing a much greater strain on the electric grid than normal.

In a press release, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas likewise asked members to voluntarily limit use of electric service immediately through midnight Tuesday in order to ensure that electric service is not interrupted. The Cooperatives urged members to reduce the use of electrical requirements by limiting use of non-essential electricity and appliances, especially electric water heaters, clothes dryers and dishwashers, and to turn heating thermostats to lower settings.

In their statement, the Cooperatives emphasized that voluntary cooperation is essential.

“If voluntary reductions are not sufficient to maintain continuity of service,” the Cooperatives said, “it may be necessary to begin interruption of electric service to specific areas for limited time periods. It is not presently anticipated that this type of rotating curtailments will be necessary. Cooperative representatives are also directly contacting large and commercial users asking their cooperation as well.”

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives, providing electricity to more than 500,000 members in Arkansas and surrounding states.

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