July 9, 2008

Idaho Power Notes New Peak Demand Record

By Nate Poppino, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho

Jul. 9--Idaho Power has already measured a new record for peak demand on its system, the electric utility announced Monday.

Demand hit 3,214 megawatts at 3 p.m. on June 30, a response to a streak of hot weather that left air conditioners turned up into the evening. The utility compensated by bringing the 170 megawatts of its new Danskin-1 natural gas-fired turbine online at its Evander Andrews Power Complex near Mountain Home.

"It was like 90 in the evening still, or something," Idaho Power spokesman Dennis Lopez said, recalling that day.

One megawatt is enough to power about 650 homes.

The previous record was 3,193 megawatts, set on July 13, 2007, and the greatest of five separate new records set that summer. Those were due to growth in both population and use of electrical appliances combined with a notably dry year.

Water supplies have been better this year, providing more power from the company's hydroelectric plants. But officials are still searching for ways to lower the burden, and have launched a public relations campaign focused at getting people signed up for its energy efficiency programs.

The highest demand usually comes on summer afternoons when air conditioning and irrigation pumping reach their peaks.

Demand has since dropped off for Idaho Power's grid, spokeswoman Lynette Berriochoa said. Though it reached more than 3,000 megawatts Thursday, most days since have been 100 to 200 megawatts lower than that, she said.

The utility is traditionally unique within the region, as its demand peaks in the summer rather than winter. But even that's beginning to change.

Hugh Imhof, a spokesman for Avista Corp., said the company is still primarily a winter-peaking one, but that its summer loads are growing and actually exceeded the winter peak once a couple of years back. The utility, which includes much of northern Idaho in its coverage, is currently benefiting from "very abundant" hydroelectric power, he said.

It's hard to predict how the rest of the summer will go for Idaho Power, Lopez said. Much of it depends on its customers and whether they take steps to cut back their use.

Nevertheless, Lopez said, Idaho Power officials believe they're well-positioned to handle things, thanks to the new Mountain Home unit and energy purchases made in advance from other companies.

"Right now, we're sitting good, and always prepared for an emergency," Berriochoa said.

Nate Poppino may be reached at 208-735-3237 or [email protected]


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