SPOKANE, Wash. — Avista is expecting that fewer customers in Spokane and Lewiston will be impacted by focused, protective power outages on Wednesday amid record-breaking heat and all-time high electricity usage.
The number of customers in the greater Spokane area and Lewiston that Avista expects will be impacted by the outages on Wednesday is approximately 5,800 compared to 22,000 expected on Tuesday, the company said in a press release on Wednesday morning. The outages are a protective measure intended to minimize broader impact and prevent extensive damage to the system that could result in prolonged outages, according to Avista. The utility company continues to have an adequate energy supply.
This comes after Avista turned off power for approximately 24,000 customers in the Spokane area on Monday amid the strain of high temperatures. At the height of power outages on Monday, about 9,300 customers were in the dark. The outages were mainly concentrated in North Spokane and surrounding areas.
A historic heat wave is underway across the Northwest. In the coming days, temperatures will continue to soar to record highs in Washington, Idaho and much of the West Coast. Spokane hit 109 degrees on Tuesday, an all-time record high for the city.
Heather Rosentrater, Avista's Senior Vice President of Energy Delivery, explained during a press conference on Tuesday that four transformers in individual Spokane neighborhoods experienced issues on Monday. A temperature alarm sounded on two of the transformers, leading them to shut off, while two other areas in North Spokane experienced higher than expected demand in "high-growth" areas, she said.
The outages are expected to occur again between noon and 8 p.m. and customers will be proactively notified by Avista sometime Wednesday prior to the outage. These notifications have already begun. Outages are expected to last for approximately one hour, while some actual times may vary. Some customers may experience more than one outage with no less than one hour in between outages. Information about how to prepare for outages can be found online.
Those who did not receive a notification may need to update their contact information on Avista's website.
The areas where outages are planned on Wednesday include:
- North Spokane near Fairwood and Five Mile
- Northeast Spokane
- Lewiston Orchards
A map that identifies areas where the outages are planned, as well as areas that Avista is actively monitoring for potential outages, has been posted on online. The areas labeled “planned” are those where customers could expect to be notified of an outage and areas labeled “monitoring” are not planned outages at this time.
“We understand the significant challenges our customers have experienced this week, and we realize that our actions have created frustration for many of them,” said Dennis Vermillion, Avista president and CEO. “We remain focused on fulfilling our commitment to keeping outages as close to one hour as possible and managing our system to reduce the burden on our customers. We take our role as energy provider seriously, and we appreciate the patience and ongoing partnership of our customers as we continue to move through the heat wave.”
Outages due to 'isolated conditions,' Washington UTC says
Emilie Brown with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) released the following statement regarding the outages on Tuesday morning:
"The rotating Avista outages we’re seeing today are due to isolated conditions – the extreme temperatures, length of heat, and increased energy delivery – that are resulting in equipment overloads.
All utilities have outages from damages or intentional outages for testing or repairs from time to time, however what we’re seeing this week are record temperatures. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is looking into weather patterns as part of its power planning process. The UTC is also asking utilities in their integrated resource plans to account for weather patterns to anticipate peak loads and capacity needs."
Avista asks customers to conserve energy
Avista is asking customers to conserve electricity from 1 to 8 p.m. daily through Friday, July 2. Customers can also proactively cool their homes overnight and outside of the hours of 1 to 8 p.m. to enhance comfort during peak hours, Avista said in a press release.
Reducing the use of air conditioning and other large electrical appliances can have a significant impact on electric usage, Avista said. If using air conditioning, customers can increase the setting on the thermostat to 78 degrees or set it as high as they can while still maintaining comfort. Programmable thermostats can also be used to adjust temperature settings several times per day on a preset schedule.
Other conservation measures Avista encourages customers to consider include:
- Reduce the use of heat producing appliances such as dishwashers, ovens, ranges and dryers
- Keep drapes and blinds closed during the day to block out heat from the sun
- Use an outdoor BBQ instead of cooking on the range
- Use small electric appliances or a microwave for cooking instead of your stove or oven
- Use a box fan to cool when possible
- Remember that room air conditioners are generally least efficient if they have to cool more than one room at a time
- Replace air conditioning filters frequently and make sure central air conditioning units are clear of debris