DPU Remains Vigilant Of Winter Storm Elliott Impact


As Winter Storm Elliott promises to drive temperatures down across the western United States, combined with already increasing gas pricing, officials with the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities (DPU) would like to remind natural gas customers to be cognizant of their gas usage this holiday season.

“Dropping temperatures mean natural gas is in greater demand,” said Jordan Garcia, Deputy Utility Manager of Electric Production. “The natural gas system in New Mexico is tightly intertwined, so if it’s suddenly colder than usual in one part of the state, demand goes up for the whole state, and when demand goes up, so do prices.”

In consideration of pricing and demand, Garcia and DPU’s management team encourage Los Alamos customers to watch their thermostats and hot water usage over the holidays.

“You can lower your consumption and bills by remembering to reset your thermostats before leaving town,” said Conservation Coordinator Abbey Hayward. “I wouldn’t go lower than 50 and would open any cabinet doors that have pipes behind them to be safe. Also, if you have pets that will stay in the house, don’t go lower than 60.”

New Mexico Gas Company (NMGC) distributes natural gas to communities throughout the state, including Los Alamos. NMGC transmission pipelines supply the gas to the Los Alamos townsite and White Rock that DPU distributes to customers. NMGC also supplies natural gas to Los Alamos National Laboratory, which has its own distribution system.

As the ultimate distributors of natural gas, DPU and utility providers, must continually purchase proper amounts of the commodity—not too much and not too little—to ensure the entire distribution system remains properly balanced. One provider’s shortfall can affect others on the same pipeline system. That delicate balance drives up demand for both commodity and cooperation when it’s cold.

“When there is a possibility of knocking the system out of balance, NMGC will issue a Critical Day Alert,” Garcia said. “This ensures that every gas utility on NMGC’s pipelines pays particular attention to gas supply. We don’t feel Los Alamos is in danger of short supply right now, but we do feel obligated to use our supply responsibly for the sake of others on the pipeline.”

DPU received a Critical Day Alert on Tuesday morning, effective Wednesday, Dec. 21, through Tuesday, Dec. 27, at 8 a.m. Garcia said this alert does not request or signify an immediate need to curtail gas usage, but rather heightens awareness that natural gas supply is more complicated than usual and that we need to respect our impact on the overall system. Furthermore, in DPU’s experience, these alerts typically contribute to even higher market pricing.