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Dangerous heat causing energy concerns, blackout warnings for Midwest

Customers should consider cutting back on energy usage during peak times.

INDIANAPOLIS — The dangerous heat this week is causing energy concerns and warnings about possible outages.

There is already concern out west for areas that use hydroelectric power as drought has lakes and rivers that power those dams at lower levels. That has caused those facilities to lower the flow, and as such, energy production is lower.

Increase in usage in the Midwest was flagged in an assessment by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. as being a concern for outages. The assessment says the Midwest "faces a capacity shortfall in its North and Central areas, resulting in high risk of energy emergencies during peak summer conditions."

Locally, NineStar Electric sent an email to members referencing the Midcontinent Independent System Operator warning about the possibility of rolling blackouts during peak usage this summer. The letter warns increased usage could lead to an energy shortage. "If the shortage is too great, the grid system could collapse, creating wide scale outages that could last for many hours or days similar to what occurred in Texas two winters ago or in New York City several years ago."

NineStar asked customers to consider cutting back on energy usage during peak times (2-8 p.m. from Monday through Friday). Letting your home run a little warmer during the day and avoiding running dishwashers, dryers and other non-essential electric devices will help.

Bartholomew County REMC echoed similar concerns in a social media post, warning customers to be prepared for possible power shortages.

Across the nation, electric-grid operators are warning that power-generating capacity is struggling to keep up with...

Posted by Bartholomew County REMC on Monday, June 13, 2022

While NineStar and Bartholomew County REMC are warning customers, AES Indiana told 13News it is not yet concerned.

"At AES Indiana, we certainly have a plan. We're watching the grid, and it's something that we're certainly prepared for, but at this time it is not something that is raising a concern for us," said AES Indiana spokesperson Kelly Young. "We're seeing a lot about it in the news — we're watching that, too — but we do have a plan and we are not concerned."

Young added that AES customers shouldn't panic. Instead, she suggested they plan ahead. 

"This isn’t cause for panic by any means," Young said. "I think it’s an opportunity for the public to do what we always ask the public to do whether it's hot summer months or cold winters and that’s to be prepared and think about ways they can save energy." 

The president of the Indiana Energy Association sent a statement to 13News:

As electric providers, we work to deliver energy 24/7/365. This includes managing and operating our systems to handle different scenarios. We are preparing for increased demand on our systems this week due to the higher temperatures without any impact or change in the delivery of service to our customers. With that being said, Indiana is part of a broader region, and every weather event/situation is unique. Further, there are a number of factors that we do not directly control outside of our own operations.

Duke Energy shared the following tips with 13News to help customers conserve:

  • Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes an HVAC system work harder, which uses more energy.
  • Set your thermostat at the highest comfortable setting. The smaller the difference between the inside and outside temperatures, the lower your energy usage and bill will be.
  • Close blinds, drapes and curtains during the hottest part of the day. Keeping your blinds, drapes and curtains closed will help prevent the sun's rays from heating your house.
  • Use a ceiling fan in occupied rooms to supplement your air conditioning. Make sure the fans are set to operate in a counterclockwise direction to push cool air down into living spaces. Only use ceiling fans in rooms that are occupied; fans cool people, not things.
  • Grill outdoors. Using your electric oven and stovetop creates a lot of indoor heat. Help save energy by firing up the grill outdoors or prepare meals that don't require cooking.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights. Be sure to turn off lights when you leave a room. Lights emit heat and cause your air conditioning system to work harder.

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