Heat Triggers Rolling Blackouts in Northwest

July 1, 2021

Sonal Patel in Powermag:

Utilities across the Pacific Northwest are bracing for exceptional stress on the grid as record-breaking temperatures continue to fester across the region, and at least one utility—Avista Corp.—this week began rolling outages as a measure to alleviate strain on the electric system.

Despite pleas to customers to reduce their power consumption, Avista, which supplies power to 340,000 customers in eastern Washington and northern Idaho, initiated “proactive and targeted protective outages” on Monday and Tuesday in the Spokane area as part of a “protective measure intended to minimize the customer impact, alleviate strain on the electric system and prevent extensive damage to the system that could result in prolonged outages.” It also urged customers to conserve electricity through Friday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time each day.

“While we plan for the summer weather, the electric system experienced a new peak demand, and the strain of the high temperatures impacted the system in a way that required us to proactively turn off power for some customers,” said Dennis Vermillion, Avista president and CEO on Monday. “This happened faster than anticipated.” 

Meanwhile, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a nonprofit federal power marketing administration that provides about 28% of the Northwest’s power, on Monday informed utilities in Washington state’s Tri-Cities region (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and West Richland) that this week’s extreme heat is straining the regional electric energy transmission system’s capacity. “If total load approaches maximum system capacity, BPA will require [Richland Energy Services] to shift or shed load on its distribution system,” the city of Richland warned its residents. But though the Tri-Cities hit a new peak demand record on Monday, BPA said it averted load shed. Utilities including Benton PUD (Public Utility District), which serves Kennewick among others, continued to urge conservation, however, to prepare “in the event one of BPA’s major lines or crucial equipment fails.”

Conservation pleas also came from Oregon and Idaho utilities as temperatures soared into the triple digits. Marking 115F in Portland on Monday—an event that prompted the public transit operator to suspend service as power cables melted—Oregon’s largest power provider Portland General Electric grappled with outages as it urged customers to stay alert during “peak time events,” which span from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m Pacific time. Idaho Power, a municipal utility serving 27,000 customers in eastern Idaho’s largest city, Idaho Falls, also urged conservation from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time over the next few days.


One Response to “Heat Triggers Rolling Blackouts in Northwest”

  1. jimbills Says:

    Canada Lytton: Heatwave record village overwhelmingly burned in wildfire

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