Governor issues state of disaster emergency

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Wind chill warnings, stress on utilities lead to declaration

Staff reportTSnews

At 4:40 p.m. Sunday, Governor Laura Kelly issued a State of Disaster Emergency due to wind chill warnings and stress on utility and natural gas providers.

The state has experienced bitter winter temperatures and below zero wind chills for more than a week, which has put stress on utility and natural gas providers across the state. The declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties that meet certain criteria.

“As the extreme cold temperatures continue to affect the region, we are urging Kansans to conserve energy in order to help ensure a continued supply of natural gas and electricity and keep their own personal costs down,” Kelly said.

Because of the sub-zero temperatures which causes an increased energy demand and natural gas supply constraints, utilities are currently experiencing wholesale natural gas prices anywhere from 10 to 100 times higher than normal. Those costs will eventually flow through to consumers, and increase monthly natural gas and electric bills.

Customers can keep these costs down by reducing their natural gas and electric usage at this critical time.

Here are some things each household can do to help in the conservation effort and slow down the increases in energy bills due to high usage:

• Keep warm, not hot. When possible wear additional layers of clothing, consider turning down your thermostat and check your programmable settings.

• Seal leaks around doors and windows. Apply weather stripping or caulk to seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors to stop air leaks and prevent energy loss. If that is not an option, you can also cover windows with towels, sheets or plastic to help keep the warm air in your house.

• Reduce the temperature on your water heater. Set the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or put it on the “warm” setting. If your home will be vacant for two days or more, set the dial to the pilot position for even more savings.

• Close blinds and curtains. This helps keep warm air inside, especially if the sun is not shining.

• Change or clean filters. A clean filter on your furnace can lower your energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent. Dirty filters cost more to use and overwork the equipment.

• Hold off on doing chores. Doing laundry and washing dishes can both use natural gas to heat the water and your dryer. If you can, wait until the extreme cold weather passes to complete these activities. If you cannot wait, use the cold setting where possible.

• Install foam gaskets on electrical switches and outlets. Electrical switches and outlets can account for up to 10 percent of your home’s energy loss.

Evergy (formerly Westar Energy) issued a similar request on behalf of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which coordinates the 17-state regional power supply. The SPP has advised that the region’s coldest weather in decades is creating high demand for electricity. At the same time, the extreme weather is driving high demand for natural gas used to heat homes and businesses, straining the gas supply available to generate electricity, and icy conditions have made availability of wind generation uncertain. The SPP has advised that the unprecedented low temperatures across a widespread region creates the potential for electricity shortages and has asked all utilities in the region to encourage customers to reduce electricity usage in order to maintain electricity supply overall and avoid potential power outages.

Evergy offered its own set of tips to help reduce power demand.

• Turn thermostats a little cooler (65-68 degrees). Avoid the use of electric space heaters.

• Close blinds and shades to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.

• Change or clean filters on furnaces.

• Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances in your home.

• When possible, use large appliances (clothes washers, dryers and dishwashers) between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

• Reduce air leaks that let cold air in by sealing around doors and windows with weatherstripping or caulk and inserting foam gaskets on electrical switches and outlets.

• Businesses should reduce the use of electric lighting and electricity-consuming equipment as much as possible.

• Large consumers of electricity should consider shutting down or reducing non-essential processes.
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