EDITOR'S NOTE: Because of the bitter cold and the way it drives up demand for energy, one of the country's biggest suppliers of electricity asked customers to use less of it Tuesday. WTVA'S Mike Russell spent much of the day looking into the nuts and bolts of this story and filed this report.
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - You might say it's the nuts and volts of the story. As temperatures have slipped down, to stay warm, people all over the region have been turning up their heaters -- and that's where the problem begins.
At just after 6:15am Tuesday morning, the Tennessee Valley Authority -- which provides power to 9 million customers, including those in North Mississippi -- asked customers to voluntarily lower their thermostats 1-2 degrees during the peak demand period from 6am to 9am. It's called the emergency load curtailment plan, a multi-stage strategy to help reduce the amount of electricity being consumed -- and it's usually put into play during high peak demand, especially during times of extreme cold weather.
"Dispatchers at TVA are watching the load, and watching the load increase into the night last night [Monday night]," said Johnny Timmons, Director of Tupelo Water & Light. "So it's a precautionary measure to do these curtailments."
Curtailments like these are not unprecedented, but Timmons says at no point did North Mississippi ever come close to a brownout. In fact, he says, there was plenty of cushion. On the other hand, that's not to say there won't be another curtailment request in the days ahead.
"Tonight [Tuesday night], they're liable to go right back in to this curtailment plan again and start the process again, said Timmons. "They will notify you [the media] and notify me. I hope they don't, but it could...yeah."
If that happens, according to TVA and Tupelo Water & Light, residential customers are asked to do three things:
(1) Postpone using electric appliances such as dishwashers, dryers, and cooking equipment.
(2) Reduce the use of heating by adjusting thermostats as low as possible. Dress warmly.
(3) Turn off non-essential lights, appliances and other electrical equipment.
We don't know if another curtailment request will be issued. But stay tuned to WTVA 9News Today at 4:30am Wednesday morning for the latest update.