Cold Winter Causes Increase In BPU’s Electric Use

The freezing cold temperatures have led to an increase in electricity consumption for the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities.

David Leathers, BPU general manager, said electric use was up approximately 7 percent in December and 5 percent in January when compared with last year.

“Most of the increases in consumption are from our residential customers,” he said.

So far, Leathers said the unusually cold winter has had no effect on the BPU power plant. He said the power plant cannot be knocked offline because of an increase in demand, but said weather could possibly play a role if it were ever to be down.

“The power plant can be knocked offline for many different reasons; some operational issue related to the cold weather could possibly occur,” he said. “The power plant team works very hard so this does not happen.”

Leathers said the number of unpaid bills from BPU customers doesn’t increase in the winter despite higher costs.

“The number of unpaid utility bills remains pretty constant throughout the year; however, the dollar amount associated with the unpaid charges naturally increases due to the rise in consumption during the winter heating months,” he said.

Leathers said the BPU officials do not put off shut-offs of electricity for customers who have not paid their bill during the winter.

“We do have additional notifications of intended termination of service, which is provided to residential electric customers during cold weather periods,” he said. “All other electric service classifications and users of other BPU utility services are subject to the same termination rules all year long.”

In January, BPU officials reported that the S.A. Carlson Power Plant and the electric distribution system performed well during the polar vortex and saved significant money for all electric customers during the cold spell.

“Utilizing our LM6000 gas turbine in combined cycle mode, as planned during the time period, the power plant was able to produce an average of 52 megawatts of power throughout the period, which met the average customer power need (in addition to the hydropower allotment) of 24 megawatts,” Leathers said. “It cost the BPU approximately $37 per megawatt to produce the power we needed – compared to the average $160 per megawatt it would have cost the BPU to purchase the power off the grid at that time. This money savings will translate into normal and typical fuel costs for our customers in their February bills (as reflected in the fuel adjustment cost line). In other words, a sharp spike in February electric rates that would have occurred had the LM6000 not operated as planned was avoided.”

Not only did the LM6000 gas turbine perform well in terms of electrical production, BPU officials said it provided a record high of 70 million BTUs for the district heating system. The district heat system also worked well during the polar vortex in January.