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'Take little steps on our system': Utility company suggests small steps inside homes that help electric grid

Utility companies say high temperatures lead to increased energy use, which strains the overall power grid.

SELLERSBURG, Ind. — In times of extreme heat, home and business energy use spikes. Utilities, like the Clark County Rural Electric Membership Cooperative (REMC) said they are prepared to handle the load, but need help from customers.

"When these extreme temps come into play it puts a burden on the generation side of our industry," REMC Operations Manager Joshua Bohlsen said. 

Bolsen said cranking down the air conditioning to beat the heat, combined with regular power usage, can overwork the energy grid. 

In extreme circumstances, that can lead to warnings from MISO, the electric grid operator for the Midwest. 

Bohlsen said when more energy is being used than supplied, MISO will direct groups like Clark County REMC to conserve in order to prevent widespread power outages.

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Clark County REMC will start by switching their own headquarters to generators. Then they'll ask large corporate customers to do the same. 

If those measures aren't enough, they would have to institute a rolling blackout system, shutting off power for small numbers of customers for 30 minutes at a time. 

"If we don't take little steps on our system, the effect on the larger system if there was an outage could last much longer," Bohlsen said. “It is a reality and we have practiced and panned and put systems in place.”

Duke Energy also provides power to customers in southern Indiana, though they serve millions of customers nationwide, rather than thousands like Clark County REMC. 

McKenzie Barbknecht, a communications representative for the company, said Duke spends the year preparing for the high-use summer months.

She said blackouts are a last resort and the company has never used them in Indiana. 

"We make investments in the electric grid, power line substations, all of those things serve to really strengthen the grid against really extreme weather conditions, like what we're experiencing," Barbknecht said. 

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Bohlsen and Barbknecht both recommend customers take steps to conserve energy in their homes. 

They recommend measures like: 

  • Setting the thermostat to 78 degrees
  • Drawing the shutters/shades
  • Unplugging electronics and small appliances when not in use
  • Regularly changing air filters
  • Cooking outdoors

Bohlsen said for individual customers, small measures can actually make a huge difference to overall energy use. 

“The little things in my experience is what surprise me the most," he said. “That’s us doing our part to sustain the grid.”

 You can keep track of power outages in Duke's coverage area here.

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