Thursday, February 3, 2011

Umpteen below? No natural gas for you!

Posted By on Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Recent frigid temperatures prompted Colorado Springs Utilities to interrupt gas service to 17 institutions here that pay lower rates than everybody else, because they agree to get off the system during times of high usage.

In the past decade, that's happened only a couple of times, according to Utilities, which didn't include the record high usage date of Dec. 8, 2009, when temperatures plunged to 15 degrees below zero. The rate difference amounts to more than $400,000 a year, according to what Utilities told us a year ago.

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Anyway, the latest arctic blast, when the temp dropped to a gazillion below, made us wonder whether those paying less would be interrupted as Utilities' natural gas demand doubled from normal usage.

Yes, says Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman:

"Customers on the interruptible natural gas rate were notified on Jan. 31 that their service would be interrupted starting Feb. 1 at 6 a.m. and that the interruption would run through noon on Feb. 2," he says. "The interruption schedule was carried out as planned."

Grossman says usage surged to nearly 270,000 million cubic feet between 8 a.m. Feb. 1 and 8 a.m. Feb. 2, shattering the previous record set on Dec. 8, 2009. Normal usage is about 100 million cubic feet per day.

Don't fret that the interruptible customers, which include The Broadmoor, Colorado College and Memorial Health System, had to start breaking up furniture to keep warm. Rather, every customer who wishes to convert to interruptible rates must have a backup generation system. Colorado College, for example, as a fuel oil reserve system.

Meantime, KKTV (Channel 11) reports that Black Hills Energy asked customers to conserve gas by turning down thermostats to 60 degrees through the night at 65 during the day. Black Hills serves Castle Rock, Fountain, Monument, Woodland Park and several other Colorado communities.

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