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As Cold Weather Strains Kansas Utility Companies, State Urges Residents To Conserve Energy

Nadya Faulx
Evergy, Kansas' largest power company, is asking people to turn their thermostats down to between 65 and 68 degrees to conserve energy.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has issued a State of Disaster Emergency due to the extreme cold and the stress it's placing on utility companies.

Evergy, the state’s largest power company, is asking customers to conserve as much electricity as possible, at least through Wednesday. Bitterly cold temperatures are expected to ease later this week.

Utility companies serving Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri have made similar requests.

The region’s coldest weather in decades is creating high demand for electricity. At the same time, it is driving up demand for natural gas used to heat homes and businesses.

The state said utilities are seeing wholesale natural gas prices soar from 10 to 100 times higher than normal. The costs utilities are paying will eventually be passed along to customers through monthly natural gas and electric bills.

“As the extreme cold temperatures continue to affect the region, we are urging Kansans to conserve energy in order to help ensure a continued supply of natural gas and electricity and keep their own personal costs down,” Kelly said in a statement.

Her emergency declaration allows the use of state resources and personnel to help with response and recovery operations in counties affected by the weather.

Meanwhile, the Southwest Power Pool, which oversees electricity production in Kansas and 13 other states, declared an Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 on Monday. This requires the organization’s member companies to prepare to interrupt service to residential customers and businesses if necessary.

The controlled interruptions would lead to “brownouts.” Service interruptions would occur if Southwest Power Pool officials think they are necessary to protect the reliability of the regional grid.

Power pool officials anticipate record demand in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Evergy is asking customers to turn their thermostats down to somewhere between 65 and 68 degrees. It also recommends avoiding the use of space heaters, turning off unnecessary lights and changing furnace filters.

State officials also suggest waiting a few days if possible to run dishwashers and dryers. Both use natural gas.

They also recommend applying weather stripping or caulk around windows and doors to stop cold air from getting into a house and warm air from leaving. Covering windows with a sheet or plugging leaks with a towel also works to keep warm air inside the house. So does closing blinds and curtains.

The state also recommends reducing the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees or placing it on the “warm” setting.

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is a board member of the Public Media Journalists Association, a board member of the Kansas chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.