While the sizzling temperatures have sent power usage to near-record highs in Utah, the state's utility customers, unlike their counterparts elsewhere, have little to worry about in meeting their cooling demands, say local power company officials.
"We're in good shape," said Utah Power & Light Co. spokesman John Ward. "We don't anticipate any problems in meeting power needs."Though the heat has posed no threat locally, it has pushed usage in Utah and most of the West to levels seldom seen this early in the year.
"There's a much greater demand for electricity regionwide," said Ward. "Not only has the heat forced more energy sales for cooling,
but the lack of rain has also contributed by causing irrigators to start up their pumps much earlier than usual."
That combination has increased UP&L customers' usage by 6.8 percent over last year, with residential and commercial sales up about 15 percent. Peaks normally hit during late July and August have been rivaled by the past week's usage figures.
The result may be an increase on next month's power bill, Ward said, but customers will receive compensation later in the year as UP&L will be able to pass along the benefits derived from sales to overworked out-of-state utilities. The Pacific Northwest, which relies greatly on hydroelectric power, has been forced by drought conditions to purchase power from UP&L, presenting an unexpected bonanza.
"We had budgeted to earn about $8 million in margin on sales to other utilities this year," said Ward. "For the first five months of the year, we had already sold $8.1 million regionally, which will eventually help keep our customers' rates down."
Minor problems have occurred locally within municipally owned systems, but with the cooperation of residents, no long-term difficulties are expected.
In Murray the peak usage of 55.3 megawatts reached on Tuesday was exceeded by Thursday's 57.1 total. While there is no immediate threat to the system, city officials ask that consumers exercise conservation.
"At this point, it's simply a matter of notification to try and create a public awareness," said Gary Mer-rill, assistant general manager of Murray City Power. "We just want people to analyze their usage periods and take some preventative measures to keep rates down."
Merrill suggests residents pre-cool their homes and buildings early in the morning and late in the day to avoid surges during the afternoon hours. He also asks that lawn watering be avoided between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to prevent the city's electric-operated water pumps from adding to the load.
"This is not a good time to be watering, not just from an electric standpoint, but from the standpoint that most of the water is lost through evaporation at that time of day," he said.
In Bountiful, high usage has forced brief outages in some areas.
"Some of these systems were designed quite a few years ago and the lines are loaded more than they were built for," said Craig Wilson, a monitor of usage demands. "So far, there have been just a few isolated outages of 15 to 45 minutes where we have had section fuses blow."
To meet demands, the city has produced greater than normal amounts of power with diesel generators. According to Wilson, daily usage has been one to two megawatts higher than average this month.