Power companies ready for Northeast heat wave

Wed Jun 20, 2012 11:40am EDT

A worker puts the finishing touches to an art installation of 857 empty school desks at the National Mall, near the Washington Monument, in Washington June 20, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A worker puts the finishing touches to an art installation of 857 empty school desks at the National Mall, near the Washington Monument, in Washington June 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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(Reuters) - As a heat wave bears down on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, demand for power is expected to be high but not reach record levels, as homes and businesses crank up the air conditioners.

The grid operators that run the electric systems in PJM, New York and New England said they expect to have more than enough power resources to meet the forecast demand on Wednesday and Thursday.

"We expect to have sufficient power supplies and the reserves are covered for the day," Ray Dotter, spokesman for PJM told Reuters.

PJM is the biggest grid in the United States serving 60 million people in much of 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states.

High temperatures in New York City, the biggest metropolitan area in the United States, were expected to reach 96 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday and 97 degrees on Thursday before dropping to the 80s over the weekend, prompting the National Weather Service to put a heat advisory in effect until Thursday.

Average highs in New York at this time of year are about 81 degrees.

Dotter said PJM issued a hot weather alert for both days that tells generators and transmission owners to put off unnecessary maintenance on their plants and power lines until after the heat wave passes.

New England's grid operator, ISO New England, said they expect normal operating conditions but also asked transmission owners and generators to put off unnecessary work, Marcia Blomberg, ISO New England spokeswoman, told Reuters.

Dotter said PJM did not expect to activate demand response or energy conservation programs, but noted some local utilities or power marketers may ask customers to cut back on power use.

Some customers in so-called demand response programs, which compensate participants with money or lower energy bills, may be asked to reduce usage by shutting off lights and elevators, turning down air conditioners and even using their own generators to take the load off the grid.

PJM expects demand for power to peak at just under 150,000 megawatts on Wednesday and a little higher on Thursday, which is well below the region's all-time peak of 163,760 MW set during a heat wave last July.

In anticipation of the high demand, power prices in the PJM West market for Wednesday almost doubled to the upper $80s per megawatt hour on Tuesday and New England prices more doubled to the mid $90s.

The New York ISO, which operates the state's power grid, forecast peak demand of 30,873 MW on Wednesday and 32,869 MW on Thursday. That is still short of the all-time peak in New York of 33,939 MW set in August 2006 before the recession of the late 2000s.

ISO New England, which operates the grid in the six New England states, forecast peak demand 22,760 MW on Wednesday and 25,320 MW on Thursday. That is well short of the all-time peak in New England of 28,130 MW also set in August 2006.

The biggest utilities and generators in the Northeast include units of Illinois-based Exelon Corp, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp, Ohio-based American Electric Power Co Inc, North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp and New York-based Consolidated Edison Inc. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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