U.S. Northeast has enough power for second day of heat wave

Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:43pm EDT

A woman holds an umbrella against the hot sun as she walks in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 16 , 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A woman holds an umbrella against the hot sun as she walks in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 16 , 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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(Reuters) - Power companies and regional grid operators in the U.S. Northeast said they have enough electricity to keep air conditioners humming on the second day of a brutal heat wave.

So far, the utilities and grid operators have not had to take any major steps to keep the lights on.

They asked consumers to conserve power, deferred non-essential equipment maintenance and activated demand response programs to reduce energy usage in some areas.

Utilities across the region also boosted the number of crews they have in the field so they can quickly restore any power outages that may occur even though they have only encountered small numbers of scattered outages over the past few days.

Next-day prices in PJM, New England and New York climbed about 15 percent to the $130s per megawatt-hour for Wednesday, which traders said is high but not unusually so when electric usage is near record levels.

But this heat wave still has a few days to go.

Temperatures in New York City, the biggest metropolitan area in the United States, reached 94 degrees F (34 C) on Monday. They are expected to hit 95 F on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 94 on Friday before thunderstorms break the heat wave on Saturday, weather forecaster AccuWeather.com said.

"As the heat continues to build throughout the week, electricity demand is expected to increase significantly, which is likely to result in tight system conditions," said Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ISO New England, which operates the six-state New England grid.

PJM, the biggest power grid in the nation, said it did "not expect major problems," but told its power company members to delay equipment maintenance for a second day in a row and on Monday activated demand response programs in some areas.

Participants in demand response programs cut back on electricity use by raising air conditioner thermostats, turning off unnecessary lights and other equipment such as elevators, and if available, running on-site generators to reduce the amount of power needed from the grid.

PJM said peak demand Monday topped 151,100 megawatts and was expected to reach about 156,000 MW on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before the heat wave starts to break in the Western parts of its region.

One megawatt powers about 1,000 homes.

PJM operates the grid serving 61 million people in 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states from New Jersey to Illinois and the District of Columbia.

NEW YORK AND NEW ENGLAND

In New York, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) activated its demand response programs, which can reduce power usage by more than 1,250 MW, for a second day in a row.

"We are expecting to meet Tuesday's peak demand and maintain our operating reserve requirement over the peak hour," NYISO spokesman Ken Klapp told Reuters.

NYISO forecast demand would peak at about 33,300 MW Tuesday afternoon, which is close to the grid's all-time record of 33,939 MW set in 2006 before industrial and commercial companies reduced power usage during the recession.

On Monday, the peak reached the highest level so far in 2013 at 32,703 MW, topping the 2012 record of 32,439 MW, NYISO said.

In New England, ISO New England forecast power usage would reach 27,500 MW on Tuesday and 27,800 MW on Wednesday and Thursday, just shy of the system's all-time peak of 28,130 MW set in 2006. Last summer, usage peaked at 25,880 MW in July.

The biggest power companies in PJM include units of Duke Energy Corp, Exelon Corp, FirstEnergy Corp, American Electric Power Co Inc, Dominion Resources Inc and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.

The biggest power companies in New York include units of Consolidated Edison Inc, National Grid Plc, Iberdrola SA, Entergy Corp, TransCanada Corp and NRG Energy Inc.

The biggest power companies in New England include units of National Grid, Northeast Utilities, Iberdrola, NextEra Energy Inc, Dominion, Entergy and Exelon.

(Additional reporting by Eileen Houlihan in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and James Dalgleish)

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