YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) _ With an Arctic cold front predicted to sweep through the region early next week, the governor on Friday urged residents to begin conserving energy and regional power coordinators prepared to cope with increased demand.

The call for conservation came a day after California encountered an unprecedented power crunch, with electricity supplies for that state's 34 million people so low rolling blackouts were only narrowly avoided.

The approaching cold is expected to push temperatures into the teens and single digits, and Washington Gov. Gary Locke urged people to turn off lights, use appliances less and turn down the heat.

``If all these forecasts turn out to be true, the Northwest is going to be challenged to meet (power demand) without taking extraordinary action,'' said Richard Adams, director of the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee, an organization of public and private utilities and some large industries.

If conservation is not sufficient, Adams said utilities might need to cut the voltage at which electricity is delivered, force off-peak usage where possible and interrupt service to big customers who get price breaks in return for power cuts when supplies are short.

``The whole idea of issuing the warning is we've got two or three days to prepare for it ... to manage our way through the forecast,'' Adams said.

The predicted cold comes at a particularly bad time for Washington and the whole region, which is largely dependent on hydroelectric power. Electricity generation typically declines during the drier winter months when the shortfall is traditionally made up by excess electricity sales from California, which is short this year.

Locke said the governors of Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho and California have all agreed to promote conservation and cooperation. Montana Gov. Marc Racicot added to the plea Friday, saying: ``Even the smallest acts of conservation will add up to help us through this situation. Voluntary conservation today may mean we will avoid disruptions when the cold weather settles in on Monday.''

National Weather Service meteorologist Ted Buehner said next week's weather is expected to be the coldest Washington residents have experienced in two years.

Locke has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to suspend air quality regulations that limit production from an Avista Corp. generating plant in Spokane and a Puget Sound Energy plant near Spanaway. With federal approval, the plants could be temporarily back online next week, he said.

In the meantime, three major utilities have asked state regulators for rate increases to pass along what they claim are higher energy costs. Avista Corp. is seeking a 28 percent increase, Puget Sound Energy is seeking a 25 percent boost and Cascade Natural Gas wants prices raised 26 percent.

Each company has already raised rates twice in the past year to pass along increased costs. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission will rule on the requests next month.

Locke has directed state agencies to curtail energy use through next week. He said the Capitol dome lights were turned off and the Capitol Christmas lights will be on only from 8 p.m. to midnight. California Gov. Gray Davis took similar actions earlier this week.

Catherine Parochetti of Avista said: ``We're doing our own conservation measures within the utility itself. You won't see Christmas lights here at Avista.''

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On the Net:

National Weather Service: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/

Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee: http://pnucc.org/