Demand Outpaces Power Supply in Growing Areas
Posted January 6, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
FAYETTEVILLE — For the first time in eleven years, hundreds of customers with a small cooperative in Cumberland County woke up in the dark.
Officials with the Lumbee River Electric Membership Cooperation say Wednesday's cold winter morning prompted too many people in the growing area to use their power all at once.
Tim Beebe was one of those customers. "I keep it cooler like my mother always did," Beebe says, "but with a baby in the house we try to keep it warm." As it gets colder they keep turning the thermostat up.
The increased demand by Lumbee River Electric co-op customers caused 2,500 households to lose their power. The system simply couldn't handle the load.
The outage was short, but demand outages are problems many smaller cooperatives face because of growth.
"Electric co-ops today in rural America really face a challenge," Alan Smith of Lumbee River Electric says. "We are where the land is, and we are where the growth is, and all of a sudden we see a boom in those particular areas."
Lumbee officials say their company has almost doubled its size in ten years. In west Cumberland County, where the Beebes live, Lumbee River has added more than 800 customers a year.
Power companies have plans to address the growth. Lumbee is building a new substation to assist the one in West Cumberland County.
But Smith compares the projections to building schools. There may still be overcrowded classrooms. "We are trying to keep up with it," he says, "but sometimes we miss."
An estimated one million customers in North Carolina receive their power from co-ops.