Record electricity use forces outages

Plunging temperatures spur excessive power consumption; electric co. urges increase in energy allotment.

The Israel Electric Corporation on Thursday urgently reiterated a request to the government to increase its electric reserves, after particularly heavy use almost necessitated power cuts on Wednesday evening in the midst of a bitter winter storm. Early on Wednesday evening, the IEC announced that it had reached its power capacity, as electricity use reached a record 9,450 megawatts. The IEC's inherent reserve (maximum production capability) is 10,700 megawatts. The rapidly plunging temperatures sent Israelis running for the dials of their heaters, which consumed much of the country's allotted energy. "The demand for electricity was the highest in Israel's history," Jerusalem IEC spokesperson Iris Ben-Shahal told The Jerusalem Post. Power outages were reported for hours in Judea and Samaria as well as in small settlements, including Yatir and Arad in the south. Despite a significant amount of snowfall in Jerusalem, Israel's capital was in good shape. "Demand was especially high because it was snowing here, but it wasn't out of hand," Ben-Shahal said. "We had workers to handle the situation." The company asked consumers to refrain from using high-consumption appliances overnight in order to relieve the national grid. Dishwashers, washing machines, baking ovens, electric grills, water heaters and vacuum cleaners were all on the "please-don't-use-these-tonight" list. The IEC has warned for years that reserves maintained in Israel are lower than required, making it difficult to meet the perpetually increasing demand for power. The reserves are significantly lower due to maintenance work, malfunctions and the non-functioning of stations due to lack of licensing. The IEC has also been requesting that the government increase Israel's power reserves. Currently it has almost no reserves, and it requires an approximate 20 percent reserve increase to function efficiently. Earlier this month, the corporation released a new initiative of advertising updates on the condition of electricity reserves. This was in an attempt to avoid power crises like the one experienced last June, which accumulated damages of about NIS 400 million on the economy. Wednesday's incident was a red on the update scale, indicating that reserves were dangerously low.