IE fights through winter cold

Demand for electricity hit all-time high.

power station 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
power station 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As the country contends with a cold wave that has left at least two people dead from hypothermia, Israel Electric reported this week that demand for electricity hit an all-time winter high of 9,900 megawatts late Sunday evening. This prompted fears among consumers that IE may initiate a series of rolling blackouts to prevent the power system from shutting down. "I have a newborn baby at home and the thought of losing power in this cold weather is very unnerving," said one IE customer. Caught off-guard by an early wave of extremely hot weather in June 2006, IE was compelled to initiate a series of intentional blackouts to protect the power system from shutting down due to a spike in demand and insufficient capacity. IE spokeswoman Yael Ne'eman said the company had learned its lesson from 2006 and took the appropriate steps to try and ensure that it won't happen again. "Recently we have began a campaign to provide our consumers with tips on how to save energy, through television commercials, radio advertisements and with pieces of advice included in monthly electricity bills," she said. Included among IE's tips is the recommendation to not set home thermostats above 20 degrees Celsius, as every degree higher forces the unit to work 5 percent harder. The previous high for electricity demand in the winter came two years ago, peaking at 9,450 MW. The all-time high demand, winter and summer, was set this past July, topping 10,070 MW. Following the blackouts of 2006, the National Infrastructures Ministry appointed a committee to investigate the causes of the power shortages. It determined that the blackouts took place when several power plants were taken off-line for the company's annual Spring maintenance. "Coming out of those meetings, we made sure to schedule the maintenance of our power plants before the very cold and hot weather arrives so that we can avoid any situations where we may be faced with having to shut down any part of the system," Ne'eman said. According to the ministry, all maintenance done to the country's power plants adheres to predicted weather patterns. Additionally, the ministry has initiated a campaign among the country's manufacturers to encourage them to cut down on energy usage during peak hours in exchange for reduced rates during the rest of the year.