As the Eastern United States experienced a severe cold spell, utilities saw record winter peak-electricity demand.

For Progress Energy, Raleigh, N.C., system-wide temperatures dropped to single digits in an area that rarely experiences such cold weather. The utility’s peak demand was 12,504 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, surpassing the prior winter peak demand record of 12,142 MWh, set in February 2007. Progress Energy’s all-time hourly peak-demand record is 12,656 MWh, set in triple-digit heat during August 2007.

“We’re working 24 hours a day to ensure that our customers have the power they need through this significant cold weather,” said Lloyd Yates, CEO and president of Progress Energy, which serves 1.5 million households and businesses in North Carolina and South Carolina. “We do not expect problems in meeting our customers’ demand for electricity, but we encourage customers to learn more about how they can use energy wisely and efficiently.”

Duke Energy Carolinas, Charlotte, N.C., set its all-time record for winter power use when it generated 17,282 MWh, surpassing the previous record of 16,968 MWh set in February 2009.

Southern Co., Atlanta, actually set three records in seven days, and its winter peak actually topped its summer peak record. Preliminary peak demand for electricity averaged approximately 37,224 MWh, exceeding by 1,363 megawatts the wintertime peak of 35,861 MWh Southern Co. had set just days earlier.

“While last summer was cooler than normal, it is still very unusual in our part of the country for a winter peak to be higher than a summer peak,” said Greg Darnell, Southern Co. Generation fleet operations manager.

According to Progress Energy, household electricity use, on average, has increased approximately 50 percent in the last three decades, due to growth in the average size of homes and increased use of electronics in daily life. Generating capacity has grown along with the demand, and as long as demand keeps reaching record levels, generating capacity will need to continue rising. According to Brett Carter, president of Duke Energy, customers can help offset costs with efficiency.

“While it is essential that we modernize the power-generation system, smart energy use—through innovative efficiency programs—can help manage the number of new power plants built to meet peak demand when customers use the most energy,” Carter said.