Cold challenges local utility companies, customers

Power demand, sales of portable heaters high

Cold Spell Tests Utilities, Users in Southern Colorado

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Southern Colorado utility providers said Friday that the demand for electricity and natural gas during the current cold spell has reached a level not usually seen until January or February.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 contacted Colorado Springs Utilities, Black Hills Energy, Xcel Energy and Mountain View Electric for details about how the cold weather is affecting the generation and distribution of power, as well as the supply and distribution of gas.

According to those companies, electricity demand is higher than the average winter demand but below record peak demands that occur during summer.  The companies said a few power outages during the cold spell were caused by problems in the distribution system, not by an inability to generate power.

A Colorado Springs Utilities spokesman said natural gas consumption may have increased as much as 50 percent this week, but that there have been no problems with supply or distribution.  He said the increase largely is due to a majority of homes using natural gas for heating.

According to the companies, ice and strong winds pose more of a problem than sheer cold.

Most local companies said utility users may be relieved to know that electricity and gas rates are based on usage, and there's no additional rate during a high-demand period. 

Colorado Springs Utilities has a website tool that allows its customers to determine the amount of their December bills based on higher usage.  To use the tool, visit

Other utility companies may have similar bill calculators.

The cold spell leads people to spend money in other ways, however.  At hardware stores, the big sellers are space heaters, weatherstripping and insulation.  The heaters complement home heating systems that may be inefficient in cold weather.  heaters also are used to prevent water pipes from freezing and bursting.

Travis Bayer, the store manager at Ace Hardware on West Uintah Street in Colorado Springs, said ceramic heaters are the most energy efficient and automatically turn off when overturned to prevent fires.

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