The Nebraska Public Power District is again pleading with customers to reduce their use of electricity to eliminate the possibility of shutdowns.
The forecast is dry, with highs near 100 degrees across the state.
That puts the hours of highest demand on NPPD’s system between 8-10 a.m. and 7-10 p.m. Customers are encouraged to reduce energy usage at all times, and especially during peak demand times.
If voluntary cutbacks don't help, power could be shut down.
"We don’t like to interrupt anyone’s service,” Chief Executive Officer Pat Pope said, “but if it means protecting equipment from damage or preventing cascading outages, we may have to force a limited interruption to service."
“We are seeing around-the-clock demands on our system, which requires even more, around-the-clock energy reductions," Pope said.
Voluntary reductions will help ease the strain on the electrical grid and help farmers irrigate.
“For the last couple weeks, Nebraska Public Power Distric has been asking for statewide cooperation from customers to reduce their energy use,” Pope said. “Their efforts have helped, but our plea continues. With no precipitation or temperature reductions in sight, concern grows for the continued wear and tear on our system during a season with the greatest demand.”
NPPD serves 80 communities directly, and generates electricity for 75 other utilities in the state, primarily those that serve small towns or rural areas. NPPD’s electrical grid of more than 5,000 miles of transmission lines and substations interconnect substations and distribution lines of other utilities throughout Nebraska.
At least one third of NPPD’s summer electrical load comes from the irrigation needs of the state’s ag community. Many irrigation systems are powered by electricity. This year’s increased demand for electricity, coupled with the extreme drought conditions, is challenging the electrical grid.
“Everything is happening at once," Pope said. "We are in a drought at the height of the growing season. People are running their air conditioners to stay cool. Industries and businesses are operating as necessary, and our system, especially in north central Nebraska, has been consistently stressed to the max,” he said. “We have some wind generation facilities in this area that, when operating, can inject generation right into the grid and help meet the demand, but when wind is minimal or absent, the transmission system can get overloaded.”
“The failure of transformers or critical components could bring about even more challenges to us and ultimately to customers, so we are making this appeal again and will do what we have to, to maintain system reliability,” he said.
When the system’s reliability is threatened, NPPD’s system control operators send out “Transmission Emergency Relief Messages” to NPPD’s wholesale utility partners to let them know they need to open breakers to reduce the amount of electricity carried on the system at a particular time.
These steps force a reduction in load to occur. When NPPD issues a TERM message, it also sends out special public service announcements to its wholesale utility partners and radio stations in the affected areas to share with customers.
“These are purposeful, protective actions we take to preserve grid integrity; because the reliability of NPPD’s transmission system ultimately impacts the ability to meet our customers’ electricity needs,” Pope said.
“Nebraska is the Cornhusker state with a reputation for helping one another in times of need,” he said. “We are asking everyone to do what they can, without jeopardizing their safety, to reduce their use until we can get rain or a break in the hot temperatures.”