U.S., Canada power grids ready for heatwave

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2011 12:25 PM
U.S., Canada power grids ready for heatwave

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Power grid operators in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest and Ontario, Canada, said they have enough power resources to meet expected high demand on Thursday as consumers crank up their air conditioners to escape a brutal heatwave.

Power usage this week has already been higher than the grids expected for this summer and set a new demand record in the Midwest but was not expected to break records in the U.S. Northeast or Ontario set in 2006 before the economic recession, the grids said.

In the U.S. Midwest, the Midwest ISO said demand for power on Wednesday reached 103,975 megawatts, breaking the 12-state region's previous record of 103,246 MW set in July 2006.

Power companies across the region said they had enough electricity to meet the demand, but warned heavy usage could stress some power lines and generating facilities, which could leave some customers in the dark temporarily.

The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) issued excessive heat warnings and watches for cities from the Midwest to the East Coast with temperatures expected to top 100 degrees F in many places.

The mercury in New York City, the biggest metropolitan center in the United States, was expected to reach 100 degrees F, which matches the record set on this day in 1991. The humidity meanwhile will make it feel more like 108 degrees, according to weather forecaster AccuWeather.com.

Thunderstorms on Friday will break the heatwave in the Midwest, while the East Coast will have to wait until Sunday for temperatures to return to near normal levels in the upper 80s and low 90s, AccuWeather said.

CLOSE BUT NO RECORD

PJM, which operates the biggest power grid in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, forecast electric usage would peak at 154,300 MW on Thursday, which is much higher than the 149,000 MW peak the grid forecast for this summer but still below the 158,448 MW peak record set in August 2006.

New York ISO, which operates the state's grid, forecast the peak would top 33,200 MW Thursday, which is higher than the 32,700 MW peak the grid forecast for the summer but still a little shy of the 33,939 MW peak record set in August 2006.

In New England, ISO New England forecast demand this week would peak on Friday at about 27,400 MW, which is just below the grid's 27,500 MW peak forecast for the summer and the 28,130 MW peak record set in August 2006.

In Ontario, the grid operator forecast demand Thursday would top 25,900 MW, which is much higher than the 23,500 MW peak the grid forecast for this year summer but still below the 27,005 MW peak record set in August 2006.

One megawatt powers about 1,000 homes in the United States and Canada.

Several utilities, including New York power company Consolidated Edison, have already asked customers to conserve power on Thursday to make it easier to keep the lights on and air conditioners humming for everyone.

Some utilities and energy service companies have also activated their demand response programs, which pay customers to reduce usage during peak demand times when needed.

Customers can reduce their power usage by turning up the air conditioner thermostat, turning off lights, elevators and other electrical equipment, and for those with backup generators on site, producing their own electricity.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Alden Bentley)