Because of customers' efforts to conserve energy amid extremely cold temperatures, Ameren Missouri doesn't anticipate doing rolling blackouts as have occurred in other parts of the country, company officials said Tuesday.
Energy companies in the Midwest, including Ameren Missouri, were notified Tuesday by the regional electric grid operator, known as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, that due to the extreme cold and high electrical demand, customers should conserve electrical power until further notice.
MISO comprises a pool of electricity generators and users from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. As reliability coordinator, MISO is responsible for monitoring the portion of the electric grid it oversees and providing instructions to its members regarding actions needed to maintain reliability in that portion of the grid.
Kevin Anders, Ameren vice president of operations and technical services, said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon the electric grid was operating well.
"We had less energy use Tuesday than on Monday, so we do not anticipate planned outages or rolling blackouts for now," Anders said.
Some immediate ways Ameren is asking customers to conserve electricity include:
Set your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower.
Turn your thermostat down at night while sleeping.
Unplug or turn off non-essential appliances.
Avoid using large appliances such as ovens and dryers.
Reduce the temperature setting on electric water heaters.
Anders said it was necessary to let municipal officials know Tuesday morning outages could be possible.
Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin confirmed she had spoken with Ameren officials who told her this was a "fluid situation."
"They just wanted us to be prepared and still urged that the city take conservation efforts on our energy usage," she said.
While the Callaway Nuclear Plant remains offline due to maintenance issues with a generator and their wind generation stations in northern Missouri have not produced as much energy recently because wind speeds haven't been as strong, Ameren's Bagnell Dam operation at the Lake of the Ozarks has been running well, Anders said.
Anders couldn't say if more generation at the dam could lead to damage to docks at the Lake of the Ozarks.
"In light of the need for power generation, which is available now at Bagnell, we will use it to meet our customers' needs," he said.
If Ameren was to use rolling blackouts, it would be determined by whether the voltage in their system was considered stable, Anders said.
"If the amount of load and generation aren't matched, then we have to look at smaller blackouts to try and stabilize the system in order to avoid a broader blackout," Anders said. "If we did have to do a rolling blackout, we would be notified by the MISO and the notice to customers could be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. You can't wait too long because you have to get the system stabilized as soon as possible."
Ameren's request for energy conservation continues through today.
"We'll see how the system responds, but we feel getting into Thursday, when it looks like negative temperatures will be moving out, we'll be in a much better spot," Anders said.
Anders said he doesn't know how recent days of high energy use will affect customers' bills.
"It's going to be different for every customer," Anders said. "This is happening across the Midwest, and when one large area of the power grid has a problem it affects all of us."
Three Rivers Electric Cooperative is still asking its 23,000 customers across Cole, Franklin, Gasconade, Maries, Miller, Moniteau and Osage counties to conserve energy through the end of the week, spokesman Rich Eisterhold said Tuesday.
"It's going to take a couple of days for our generators to catch up," Eisterhold said. "Our gas and coal supplies haven't been coming in as quickly as we needed, so when the generators don't have to use as much coal and gas, then they can catch up."
Eisterhold said Three Rivers has never had usage peak as high as it has so far this week.
"It's roughly 10 percent over our highest peak of generation," Eisterhold said. "It was 5,500 megawatts Tuesday, and 5,100 had been the previous peak."
Every electric coop in the state is asking members to conserve energy, Eisterhold said. Three Rivers is part of the Associated Electric Coop based in Springfield, which has generators in multiple locations in Missouri and Oklahoma.