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Kate Modzelewski, left, and Jen Yeaman brave the near-zero temperatures on Friday as they run through Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs on a snowy morning. Colorado Springs Utilities set a record for winter electricity consumption on Sunday during brutally low temperatures. 

Colorado Springs Utilities set a record Sunday for the most electricity consumed on a winter day as temperatures across the city reached sub-zero lows. 

Residents consumed 16,621 megawatt-hours of power that day, surpassing the previous winter peak of 16,593 megawatt-hours consumed on Feb. 1, 2011, according to Utilities. However, the usage remained below the summer peak of 17,751 set in July 2019, Utilities data showed. Colorado Springs electricity usage tends to peak in the summer when air conditioners are running. 

The extended widespread cold snap over the weekend put pressure on utilities across the country with 14 states experiencing rolling blackouts Monday, the New York Times reported. The blackouts extended from northern states such as Minnesota south to Louisiana, New Mexico and parts of Texas. In Colorado Springs, the city hit record lows on Sunday and Monday.  

Colorado Springs Utilities called on customers to conserve energy ahead of the cold weekend as a preventative measure, but ultimately the system didn't experience any problems because it is prepared for extreme demands, CEO Aram Benyamin said. 

"We stress the system for what you saw here plus more, " he said. 

In Texas, blackouts were caused when natural gas, coal and wind turbine generation experienced problems with production because of the cold, CNN reported. 

Colorado Springs Utilities has layers of backup systems in place to avoid what other communities' experienced, Benyamin said. For example, natural gas generators could kick in to provide extra supply should the system see a disruption, he said.

The system also has stores of propane it can manufacture into natural gas should gas pipelines burst or pumps seize because of cold weather, he said.  

The city contracts for wind energy from northeast Colorado, but if the turbines have mechanical problems the operator is still required to provide the city power as part of its contract, Benyamin said. 

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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