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Critical emergency alert issued as Alberta’s power grid put under strain

Click to play video: 'Extreme cold puts pressure on Alberta’s energy grid'
Extreme cold puts pressure on Alberta’s energy grid
The extreme cold drove up demand on the power grid prompting Alberta’s energy operator to declare a grid alert. Sarah Offin reports. – Jan 12, 2024

A critical emergency alert was issued on Saturday evening urging Albertans to reduce electricity use to minimize potential outages across the province.

In an alert sent at around 6:36 p.m., the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) said extreme cold is resulting in high power demand across the province, which places the electricity grid at a high risk of rotating power outages.

Albertans are asked to immediately limit their electricity use to essential needs only and to turn off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances. AESO is also asking Albertans to minimize the use of space heaters and to delay the use of major power appliances.

“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,” said Nathan Neudorf, Alberta’s minister of affordability and utilities.

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Leif Sollid, manager of communications for AESO, said the strain on the power grid dropped significantly since the alert was issued.

However, Albertans should still reduce their electricity use as much as possible during this time.

“Rotating outages are really a matter of last resort,” Sollid said.

“We issued a grid alert at 3:30 p.m. which is a heads up to the public that we are now using backup reserves to meet very high demand. The next step if we can’t meet that demand is rotating outages, which are short-duration outages across the province where people lose power for approximately 30 minutes.

“It looks like we’re not going to have to take that step tonight.”

This comes after AESO issued the grid alert around 3:30 p.m. due to extreme cold, high demand for electricity and low imports.

AESO also issued a grid alert on Friday afternoon due to “high power demand due to extreme cold, two large natural gas generator outages, and very low renewable power on the system.”

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All of Alberta is under an extreme cold warning, with temperatures below -30 C and wind chill of -40 C due to a polar vortex.

On Thursday at around 6 p.m., the new hourly peak demand record was set at 12,384 megawatts (MW), beating a previous record of 12,193 MW set in December 2022.

AESO said that new record was based on energy requirements from industrial, commercial, agricultural and residential users.

— with files from Adam Toy, Global News.

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