Arkansans Asked to Conserve Energy Usage During Winter Storm

Utility companies are working to keep up with the increased demand.

Crew fixing powerlines during a winter storm

Arctic weather plunged into Arkansas at the start of the week, bringing with it record low temperatures and heavy snowfall. More of the same is expected in the coming days and utility companies are working to meet the state’s energy demand. 

“The demand for power right now is enormous, we’re talking historic levels,” said Brandi Hinkle, communications specialist for Entergy Arkansas.

Due to snow and the extremely cold weather, more people are at home where they’re using more power than normal and the demand for electricity is exceeding the supply. 

“We’ve only got so much we can deliver because we’ve only got so much we can get to create,” said Rob Roedel, director of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas serve about 500,000 customers in more than 70 counties across the state and Roedel said their facilities “are generating as much as they possibly can at this time.” 

Arkansans can reduce energy consumption by lowering the thermostat to 68 degrees, opening blinds to let in warmth from the sun, and delaying laundry, washing dishes, bathing or other non-essential uses of electricity. Arkansans can also wash clothes with cold water, cook foods at the lowest possible setting and refrain from opening the oven door while baking. 

If these mitigation efforts don’t work, there are other steps utility companies can take to conserve the state’s energy supply.

“We have contingency plans for just about anything that could possibly happen and then we’ve got contingency plans for the contingency plans because people rely on electricity, very much so, much more than they did even 20 years ago,” Roedel said. “It’s a crucial element of their lives.”

One of those contingency plans is scheduled power interruptions like those implemented by Southwestern Electric Power Company, OG&E and Entergy Arkansas. In the electric industry, Roedel said the use of targeted curtailments typically means a utility has used every resource possible such as asking a large commercial client to cease production for a certain amount of time.

“Those co-op members, industrial ones, they have what’s called interruptible load so as part of their rate agreement, we may call on them occasionally, in situations such as this, to limit their usage and they agree to do that,” Roedel said.

Even if enough energy is conserved, Arkansans could still experience outages because extremely cold temperatures can interrupt the integrity of the powerline distribution. The weight of snow on tree limbs can cause them to lay over on powerlines and cause outages as well. 

Entergy Arkansas serves about 715,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in 63 counties. The utility saw a peak of around 10,000 outages across the state today, but that was down to less than 1,000 by 4:30 p.m. communications specialist Brandi Hinkle said.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate so far to only have the number out that we do,” Hinkle said. “We are looking forward to the next 24 to 48 hours, especially in the southern part of the state where some freezing rain is forecast. That can do a lot of damage, especially in heavily wooded areas, which the southern part of the state is.”

In preparation, Entergy Arkansas has requested additional resources, including people and materials, that they’ll move to the area as soon as it’s safe so crews can restore power.

“We know that at this point in time it’s more than just an inconvenience, it can be dangerous to be without power because of the temperatures so we are doing whatever we can to restore power,” Hinkle said.

If you do experience an outage, it’s best to call your local utility company and report it. Hinkle also recommends turning off major appliances if you do lose power, and then plugging them in one at a time once power is restored. This ensures there’s not a huge demand for electricity all at once, which could cause additional outages.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.