A stubborn cold front that has enveloped the Pacific Northwest sparked record natural gas and electricity sendouts for Bellevue, WA-based Puget Sound Energy (PSE) Tuesday, eclipsing a power demand marker that had stood for a decade, according to the combination utility. With forecasts for continued colder-than-normal temperatures in western Washington state, PSE was advising its customers to use power and gas wisely.

On Monday night, PSE set a new hourly electric system peak of 4,906 MW, breaking its historical peak of 4,847 MW set Dec. 21, 1998. Also on Monday, gas sendout for the utility topped 755,881 MMBtu, surpassing its previous record of 741,881 MMBtu set Nov. 28, 2006. PSE said this was well above the average daily gas sendout in December, which is 500,000 MMBtu.

PSE said both its electricity and gas supplies are sufficient to meet the high demands in its 11-county service territory, but with the extended nature of the cold weather, it has urged its customers to “use energy wisely to manage winter electric and gas bills and to protect the energy delivery system, particularly during peak hours of 6:30-9 a.m. and 4-7:30 p.m.”

Noting the inevitability of high bills in these extreme weather situations, PSE COO Bert Valdman said the utility electric and gas systems are “performing well” in spite of the harsh weather, but “as the cold spell continues, we want to protect the system and our customers.” He encouraged customers to “keep homes and businesses at the lowest comfortable temperature, and to turn off unnecessary lights, computers and appliances, especially during peak periods in the morning and evening.”

For customers having troubles paying the higher seasonal utility bills, PSE maintains several programs, including a home energy lifeline program, which has an added $4.8 million in funding this year to put nearly $15 million in the mix to help eligible customers in low-income households. And customers can qualify for low-income home energy assistance program funds that are distributed by community service centers.

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