Amid NYC heat wave, Con Edison lowers power voltage

Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:12am EDT

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(Reuters) - New York energy company Consolidated Edison Inc reduced the power voltage in some Manhattan neighborhoods on Wednesday, in an action known as a brownout, as a brutal heat wave stressed the city's electric system for a third day.

This was the second voltage reduction during this week's heat wave, aimed at easing the load on the power grid and allowing workers to fix heat-stressed equipment in the affected neighborhoods. The company had also turned down the voltage in a few Manhattan neighborhoods for several hours on Monday.

Temperatures in New York City hit 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) on Monday and 96 on Tuesday, and were expected to climb again to 96 on Wednesday. Thunderstorms Wednesday night will help cool temperatures a little, bringing them closer to normal levels in the 80s by Thursday, according to AccuWeather.com.

Con Edison, which locked out its 8,000 member union workforce on July 1 in a contract dispute, said the voltage reductions had nothing to do with the labor tensions.

Like in earlier brownouts over the summer, Con Edison on Wednesday did not ask homes and businesses in the affected Sutton Place and Midtown East neighborhoods to turn off their air conditioners or other appliances.

The company, however, asked all of its 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County to use energy wisely during the heat wave, the fourth to hit the city this summer.

Customers do not lose power in a voltage reduction, but incandescent lights, for example, glow dimmer, hot water heaters take longer to heat water and some motors run slower.

Con Edison said its system was working fine and only 92 customers were without power Wednesday morning, a small number for a utility of its size at any time of year.

The company and union, which have met several times over the past few weeks, were expected to meet again on Wednesday for another bargaining session.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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