Officials say large-scale blackout unlikely in Oklahoma

Saturday, August 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Local power supplies were not affected when a blackout hit New York and other eastern states, and officials say that type of widespread collapse is unlikely here.

Oklahoma's power grid has enough slack built into it to avoid the kind of blackout that hit the East Coast on Thursday, officials said. But keeping that slack is important.

Every year, the demand for energy steadily increases, which could create a temptation to meet the increased demand by dipping into power reserves.

But such a strategy would be unwise and policy forbids it, said Alan Decker, director of regional services for AEP-PSO, the power company that serves Tulsa.

While the demand for energy in the Northeast was pushing the system there to its limit, the demand in Oklahoma never approaches the potential supply, even at peak usage, Decker said.

So far this summer, demand has topped out at 3,400 megawatts, while PSO can supply more than 4,000.

And officials plan to keep it that way.

``We're required to have a 12 percent reserve,'' Decker said. ``So if demand goes up, we go out and increase our supply, whether we produce it ourselves or buy it from out of state.''

Across the United States, energy demand has surged more than 30 percent in the last decade, while generating capacity has grown only 15 percent.

Nationwide, Americans use nearly twice as much electricity today than 20 years ago _ almost 4 billion kilowatt hours in 2002 compared to 2 billion kilowatt hours in 1982.

Population growth is one factor in the increase, but experts say Americans now own more things that need to be plugged in _ personal computers, cell phone chargers and microwaves, for example.

In Oklahoma, demand for electricity increases about 2 percent a year, said Ed Bettinger, a spokesman for PSO in Tulsa. That means every year PSO has to find a way to supply more electricity without dipping into the required 12 percent reserve.

``For now that isn't too challenging,'' Bettinger said. ``This part of the country can produce a lot more capacity than it can use.''