Spike in Alberta energy use during cold snap not as big in Lethbridge: ‘We peak in summer’

Spike in Alberta energy use during cold snap not as big in Lethbridge: ‘We peak in summer’

With people across Alberta desperately trying to stay warm during this cold snap, the demand for electricity spiked so much on Monday night that it triggered two energy emergency alerts from the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).

Despite the alerts affecting Lethbridge — as well as the rest of the province — those at electric operations in Lethbridge said it’s basically business as usual in southern Alberta, even with the frigid temperatures.

“In actual fact, Lethbridge has a slightly different load than the rest of Alberta, in that we peak in summer,” said Stew Purkis, the Electric Utility Manager for the City of Lethbridge. “The air conditioning requirements of our homes is much greater in this part of Alberta than in the remainder.”

“We’re one of the only jurisdictions where we peak in summer, rather than winter.

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“So actually the load on the Lethbridge system during these cold snaps is lower than we would see when its +40 [degrees].”

But even with less of a spike in Lethbridge on Monday night, the city was under the same alert as the rest of the province from AESO.

In a statement on its website, AESO called Monday’s alert-triggering demand “near record-breaking” and said that extreme weather had affected the operations of some generation facilities across the province.

Coupled with the low wind in the province, AESO activated its Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) protocol, with a level 1 alert issued at 5:18 p.m., followed by a level 2 alert at 7:15 p.m.

In the three-tiered alert system, levels 1 and 2 mean all power needs are being met across the province, but a level 3 alert would mean jurisdictions should prepare to curtail their loads.

“We would want people to understand that that [wouldn’t] be a long-term scenario for them,” said Purkis. “We would be asked to shed a few megawatts from our system, that runs typically around 120 megawatts during this kind of weather.”

Lethbridge residents can still help the grid and their electricity bills by conserving energy, and Purkis said avoiding using space heaters for long periods of time is a good way to avoiding spiking electricity bills.

He also pointed to clothes dryers as the biggest energy-eating culprit.

“If we can keep our use to one major appliance at a time, if that’s possible, that is the absolute best way to actually technically ensure that there’s enough supply for the demand that’s out there,” said Purkis.
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