Utility companies ask customers to cut back on usage

SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - The heat doesn't just make people sweat. It's also putting a strain on electric companies; and some are asking you to cut back usage.

Citizen's Electric Corporation and Southeastern Illinois Electric Co-op are just two of the entities that asked users to cut back on electricity use between the hours of noon and 7 p.m. Thursday.

Dustin Tripp, a spokesman for Southeastern Illinois Electric Co-op says because of the high heat, air conditioning units have to work harder. Electric companies and co-ops worry the demand might exceed the capacity.

"Were always concerned about the hot weather and the possibility of running a shortage," said SEMO Electric Cooperative General Manager Reuben Jeane.

He says right now, their worry, isn't as high as the temperatures.

"Right now we're still very comfortable with where we're at," said Jeane.

He says the co-op's megawatt usage is still 8 percent below it's peak.

Jeane says the reason they aren't worried about reaching that capacity level is because of something called peakers. He says they're like an insurance policy. During these peak times of electricity use, these can kick in to provide that extra energy.

"It can be brought up within minutes to fill a shortage of power," said Jeane.

Ameren Illinois officials say new records were set due to peak electricity usage.

"With air conditioners running almost continuously during afternoon and evening hours to keep homes, stores and offices cool, we set two new records for peak electricity demand records this week," said Ron Pate, Ameren Illinois vice president of Operations.

The new records are: 9,502 megawatts on July 19 and 9,605 megawatts on July 21. The previous record was 9,386 megawatts set on Aug. 7, 2007.

During extremely hot weather, check on friends, neighbors and relatives who may be especially vulnerable to high temperatures, such as those who are older, have medical issues or do not have air conditioning.

The strain on power isn't just from the heat. Jeane says with late planting this year due to flooding, farmers are using extra power to get their crops irrigated and flourishing.

Ameren Missouri representative Lisa Manzo says they aren't worried about usage right now either. She says the highest peak usage the company has seen was in August 2007, which was still no where close to the capacity.

If you want to cut back on your energy use, there are a couple things you can do:

-Set your thermostat at the highest comfortable temperature. Use fans to keep air circulating.

-For each degree you increase the temperature, you can reduce electricity use by about 3 percent.

-Regularly change or wash (depending on type) air conditioner filters.

-Wait to run appliances like clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, ovens, stoves, and TVs, until early morning, or late evening.

-Close drapes and blinds on the sunny side of your home to keep the heat out, and cool in.

-If your water heater runs on electricity, limit your hot water use.

-Replace incandescent bulbs with Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Unlike incandescent bulbs, Energy Star qualified CFLs emit little heat and last up to 10 years.

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