The Tennessee Valley Authority broke an all-time February power demand record Thursday morning with an estimated 32,109 megawatts at 7 a.m. EST, when the average temperature across the region hovered at 7 degrees.All of TVA’s reactors operated at 100 percent over the last couple of days. The current situation doesn’t have the same quality of the polar vortex – that was fast and cruel while what the country has experienced over the last couple of weeks has been weather writ large – not slow and kind, to be sure, but easier to anticipate its impacts.
In its 82-year history, this is TVA’s highest ever demand for the month of February. The previous record was 31,045 megawatts set on Feb. 5, 2009, when the Valley-wide temperature was 15 degrees. TVA’s all-time power demand record is 33,482 megawatts on Aug. 16, 2007.
To an extent, anyway. Coming from the south, I can attest that that region of the country is never ready for cold weather much less snow and ice. So TVA’s performance is especially noteworthy.
What about the perpetually shivery northeast?
This is corroborated by nuclear’s excellent performance this winter. On January 8th, in the midst of frigid arctic temperatures in the Northern U.S., nuclear facilities provided 27 percent of the early afternoon electricity demand for the PJM Interconnection wholesale electricity market spanning the mid-Atlantic region and much of the Midwest. All but one of the 33 plants in this region operated at full capacity. In the New York and New England independent service operator (ISO) markets, nuclear operated at a 100 percent capacity factor during this time. No other energy source even comes close to this level of reliability.As always, we’ll let other energy generators do their own humblebrag thing – I’m sure there are good stories to tell there, too.
Despite nuclear energy’s incredible resilience during extreme weather and these many benefits, some nuclear plants across the country are in danger of shutting down, or already have shut down due to a confluence of economic factors that are working against them. These premature closures have a variety of negative impacts for the communities and regions they serve.This is really the point. We could take this from the diversity, reliability or emissions perspectives, but the idea is the same: without nuclear energy, winter is a little colder and a little more polluted. It needs to be valued for what it offers.