Heat wave spurs record-breaking electricity use

BPA says 2014 high mark surpassed three days running

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer

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Customers of the Bonneville Power Administration, which includes Clark Public Utilities, broke records for electricity use three days in a row during this week’s heat wave, the federal power marketing agency said in a news release.

As temperatures hovered around the 100-degree mark, people turned on so many air conditioners and fans that they surpassed the BPA’s 2014 power consumption record of 7,861 megawatts. On Aug. 1, 2 and 3, customers consumed 8,048, 8,226 and 8,208 megawatts, respectively.

One megawatt is usually enough to power roughly 700 homes in the Pacific Northwest and 1,200 megawatts can power a city the size of Seattle, the agency said.

David Wilson, a BPA spokesman, said the agency forecasted the heat and a subsequent spike in demand and they prepared for it.

“When we see a weather event coming it’s all hands on deck,” he said.

Bonneville is a Portland-based agency of the federal Department of Energy that regularly distributes electricity within the U.S. portion of the Columbia River drainage basin. The Ross Complex is its facility in Clark County.

The BPA worked with other federal agencies to make sure turbines in federal dams were operating at their best, delayed routine maintenance where it was safe to do so until cooler weather returns and worked closely with the Columbia Generating Station, the Northwest’s only operating nuclear energy plant.

Transmission staff were also on hand to remedy outages and worked closely with firefighters in regions where transmission lines are threatened by wildland fires. In the news release, the agency said the transmission systems issued have been minimal.

“Our crews have done an outstanding job preparing for this stretch of hot weather. And not just the equipment and the system, they’ve also been watching out for each other’s safety in this sweltering heat. We’ve not had a single injury, heat-related or otherwise, during this event,” says Robin Furrer, vice president of Transmission Field Services for the Bonneville Power Administration.

Although the 100-degree days are behind us, the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures will remain in the low- to mid-90s through next Thursday.