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Oklahoma's regional power grid sees highest-ever demand as temperatures soar

Nikola Johnny Mirkovic

As Oklahoma and surrounding states have sweltered this week, the regional power grid saw record-breaking usage.

Southwest Power Pool oversees the electric grid and power market shared by Oklahoma and 14 other states in the central U.S. On Monday, itreported the highest electricity demand it’s ever seen. That power use peaked around 4:30 p.m., as air conditioners strained to keep people cool during the hottest part of the day.

Monday also brought thehighest heat index that’s ever been recorded on the Oklahoma Mesonet — 127˚F in Miami. Things have cooled off a little since then, although most of the state has still seen temperatures above 100˚F every day this week.

“This heat is no joke,” said Carson Cunningham with OG+E. “It's a dangerous situation when temperatures are maintained this high for this long.”

In response to the high electricity demand, the SPP issued a Conservative Operations Advisory through Friday evening. But Cunningham said Oklahomans aren’t at risk of overburdening the grid at this time.

“It's important to note that there are no public calls for conservation at this time — folks can go about their day,” Cunningham said. “It's just they're continuing to monitor the situation.”

The advisory is meant to raise awareness of potential reliability issues. It’s the SPP’s most serious advisory level, just below an Emergency Alert that would occur if power demand topped out the available supply.

Cunningham said Oklahoma’s electric grid is built to weather these high temperatures, so customers aren’t at risk for blackouts or brownouts.

Still, power-saving strategies can give both the grid and your electric bill room to breathe.

“Every one degree higher on your thermostat can save up to 3% on your energy costs,” Cunningham said. “So if you get that to a higher temp that you're comfortable with, that can go a long way to reducing the load not just on your home, but throughout the region.”

Ceiling fans can also take some strain off your air conditioner and only use about as much power as a lightbulb, Cunningham said. He also recommended closing curtains to keep out the sun and limiting the use of high-energy appliances, like ovens and dryers, between 2 and 7 p.m.

People who need some relief from the heat can also take advantage of one of the public cooling centersacross the state.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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