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Alberta power grid pushed to the brink

Alberta power grid pushed to the brink
Extremely cold temperatures across Alberta last week had a direct impact on the province’s electricity supply.
Extremely cold temperatures across Alberta last week had a direct impact on the province’s electricity supply.
IMAGE: Government of Alberta
Extremely cold temperatures across Alberta last week had a direct impact on the province’s electricity supply, resulting in an Alberta Emergency Alert on Saturday. While there was worry of possible rolling power outages, consumption dropped considerably after the alert was issued.
IMAGE: Government of Alberta
Extremely cold temperatures across Alberta last week had a direct impact on the province’s electricity supply, resulting in an Alberta Emergency Alert on Saturday. While there was worry of possible rolling power outages, consumption dropped considerably after the alert was issued.

Alberta power grid pushed to the brink

By Dave Lueneberg
By Dave Lueneberg
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Shootin’ the Breeze Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
January 17, 2024
January 17, 2024

If there was any doubt just how fragile the electricity supply in Alberta is, last week was a good indicator.

AESO, the Alberta Electricity System Operator, issued three consecutive grid alerts, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, after last week’s provincewide extreme cold snap resulted in higher-than-usual demands for power.

It reached an unprecedented level Saturday night when an Alberta Emergency Alert was issued — a measure usually reserved for wildfires, floods and security-related events.

“Extreme cold resulting in high power demand has placed the Alberta grid at a high risk of rotating power outages this evening,” the alert read.

“Albertans are asked to immediately limit their electricity use to essential needs only. Turn off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances. Minimize the use of space heaters. Delay use of major power appliances. Delay charging electrical vehicles and plugging in block heaters. Cook with a microwave instead of a stove,” it continued.

At the height of the alert, Saskatchewan reportedly provided just over 150 megawatts of power to our grid.

 

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“SaskPower is providing 153 MW of electricity to Alberta this evening to assist them through this shortage,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe posted on his X account.

The leading worry, at the time, was that the increased demand on Alberta’s power grid could translate into rolling power blackouts.

“Albertans are asked to immediately reduce their electricity use to essential needs only,” said a statement from AESO at 6:36 p.m. “Reducing peak electricity demand through provincewide conservation will minimize the high potential for rotating outages this evening.”

Consumption of electricity is traditionally highest between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday were no exception. AESO projected the grid was facing a 100 to 200 MW shortfall in electricity Saturday evening when it issued the plea for Albertans to take immediate action.

The province’s utilities minister, Nathan Neudorf, was also quick to react on social media.

“We are calling on all Albertans to reduce their electric demand immediately to essentials only. Extreme cold resulting in high power demand has put the province’s electricity grid at high risk of rotating outages tonight,” the minister posted.

 

 

A release from the electric system operator shortly after 9:30 p.m. thanked residents for their quick response.

“Almost immediately after the [provincial emergency] alert was issued,” it said, “the AESO saw a significant 100 MW drop in electricity demand, which amounted to a 200 MW reduction within minutes.”

The grid alert ended at 8:40 p.m.

While it didn’t release any numbers on power consumption publicly from Saturday or the previous day, by Sunday, the system operator did say that demand for electricity between 6 and 7 p.m. Thursday, considered the first evening of extreme cold, peaked at 12,384 MW, eclipsing the Dec. 21, 2022, mark of 12,192.

According to its website, electricity consumption Saturday between 6 and 7 p.m. was 11,802 MW. In comparison, it was 11, 669 MW just 24 hours later.

 

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If there was any doubt just how fragile the electricity supply in Alberta is, last week was a good indicator.

AESO, the Alberta Electricity System Operator, issued three consecutive grid alerts, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, after last week’s provincewide extreme cold snap resulted in higher-than-usual demands for power.

It reached an unprecedented level Saturday night when an Alberta Emergency Alert was issued — a measure usually reserved for wildfires, floods and security-related events.

“Extreme cold resulting in high power demand has placed the Alberta grid at a high risk of rotating power outages this evening,” the alert read.

“Albertans are asked to immediately limit their electricity use to essential needs only. Turn off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances. Minimize the use of space heaters. Delay use of major power appliances. Delay charging electrical vehicles and plugging in block heaters. Cook with a microwave instead of a stove,” it continued.

At the height of the alert, Saskatchewan reportedly provided just over 150 megawatts of power to our grid.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

“SaskPower is providing 153 MW of electricity to Alberta this evening to assist them through this shortage,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe posted on his X account.

The leading worry, at the time, was that the increased demand on Alberta’s power grid could translate into rolling power blackouts.

“Albertans are asked to immediately reduce their electricity use to essential needs only,” said a statement from AESO at 6:36 p.m. “Reducing peak electricity demand through provincewide conservation will minimize the high potential for rotating outages this evening.”

Consumption of electricity is traditionally highest between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday were no exception. AESO projected the grid was facing a 100 to 200 MW shortfall in electricity Saturday evening when it issued the plea for Albertans to take immediate action.

The province’s utilities minister, Nathan Neudorf, was also quick to react on social media.

“We are calling on all Albertans to reduce their electric demand immediately to essentials only. Extreme cold resulting in high power demand has put the province’s electricity grid at high risk of rotating outages tonight,” the minister posted.

 

 

A release from the electric system operator shortly after 9:30 p.m. thanked residents for their quick response.

“Almost immediately after the [provincial emergency] alert was issued,” it said, “the AESO saw a significant 100 MW drop in electricity demand, which amounted to a 200 MW reduction within minutes.”

The grid alert ended at 8:40 p.m.

While it didn’t release any numbers on power consumption publicly from Saturday or the previous day, by Sunday, the system operator did say that demand for electricity between 6 and 7 p.m. Thursday, considered the first evening of extreme cold, peaked at 12,384 MW, eclipsing the Dec. 21, 2022, mark of 12,192.

According to its website, electricity consumption Saturday between 6 and 7 p.m. was 11,802 MW. In comparison, it was 11, 669 MW just 24 hours later.

 

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