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Columbia prepares electric grid for hot summer

It’s recently begun to feel a lot like summer outside and people will do whatever it takes to beat the heat.

This includes using more electricity than they normally would.

“Columbia Water and Light sees our peak in the summer time because we’re an electric utility,” said Water and Light Spokesperson Connie Kacprowicz. “Once those air conditioners start humming is whenever we see the circuits, the load getting a little bit higher.”

When people start using more power, they run the risk of overloading the city’s electric grid.

If too many people in one area are using the circuits, they could cause a power outage.

Kacprowicz said the city plans for any and all of those emergency scenarios, especially during the peak summer months of July and August.

“So what you want with an electric system is always to be planning ahead,” she said. “You want extra space on that electric grid so if a problem does occur, or there’s an additional load it can’t carry, you can switch that load around to another circuit.”

Columbia was recently one of only 191 public power utilities in the nation to win the Reliable Public Power Provider award. This award goes to the city that provides its consumers with the best degree of electric service.

One of the criteria of the award includes planning ahead and that is something Columbia Water and Light takes seriously.

It is currently finishing a project that will add an additional circuit in the central part of downtown Columbia.

Kacprowicz said about 3 years ago the city anticipated the growing number of people downtown and decided to add an extra circuit so the grid could remain reliable throughout the year.

The city says the staff works around the clock to make sure the power system is up and running when people need to cool off.

“That’s why it’s very important year round for us to have a maintenance program,” Kacprowicz said. “Look for those problems before they become a problem, get them repaired and also to closely monitor the electric usage pattern so we can plan and switch the electricity around where it is needed.”

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