Call it another polar vortex or an Alberta clipper or just a cold snap. Either way, it’s cold, and it’s only November.
Just ask the people outside Buffalo using walls of snow as beer coolers. Or the fine folks who keep the lights on in our neck of the woods.
PJM Interconnection, the company that operates the regional electrical grid in Pennsylvania and 12 surrounding states, said Tuesday’s peak usage set a record for November. At 7 p.m. that day, we asked the grid for 121,987 megawatts, shaming last November’s peak of 114,699.
Twelve hours before hitting that peak, PJM predicted demand would top out at 120,838 MW. Close enough. And it said it would have 149,328 MW on hand.
That 38,000 megawatts of backup is comforting until you recall that when PJM set several winter demand records last January, hitting nearly 142,000 MW, the grid didn’t have 40,000 megawatts it thought it would. Officials say the power “didn’t show up.”
Maybe it had to commute from Buffalo.
It was supposed to be generated by gas- and coal-fired plants that couldn’t get their fuel or load it. PJM has said it’s working to make sure such no-shows don’t happen again.
That means coal-fired plants that competed all summer with oil for space on rail cars need to bring up their inventories. And gas-fired plants need to prepare for another volatile winter.
Just in the past three days, prices for gas delivery next month shot up 8 percent, dropped 2 percent, and bounced up another 3.6 percent to a five-month peak. Demand and winter-weather predictions are playing havoc with prices already strained by pipeline uncertainty.
And it’s only November.