Con Ed ends NYC power reduction, seeks conservation

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 17, 2012 4:19 PM
Con Ed ends NYC power reduction, seeks conservation

By Scott DiSavino

(Reuters) - New York power company Consolidated Edison said the voltage reduction in some Manhattan neighborhoods ended late on Monday as a brutal heat wave continued to bake the Big Apple.

Temperatures in New York City hit 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) on Monday and were expected to reach 95 on Tuesday and 96 on Wednesday before falling to near normal levels in the 80s on 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 reduction had nothing to do with labor tensions.

The company said on Tuesday that it had used voltage reductions during heat waves before the lockout and since to take some of the load off power lines while workers fixed heat-stressed equipment in the affected neighborhoods.

Like earlier brown outs this summer, Con Edison did not ask the homes and businesses affected on Monday to turn off their air conditioners or other appliances.

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

The neighborhoods affected by Monday's voltage reduction were Midtown East, East Side and Roosevelt Island.

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

Con Edison said its system was working fine and only 149 customers were without power on Tuesday afternoon, which is low 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, will next meet on Wednesday for another bargaining session.

Con Edison said the sides were still talking but it would not characterize how the negotiations were going.

John Melia, spokesman for the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 1-2, said he would not characterized the sides as getting any closer. He said the company was trying to split the union with offers of different retirement benefits for workers based on when they joined the company.

UNION SEEKS STATE HELP

Last week, the union called on state regulators to order Con Edison to end the lockout, charging the company was violating regulatory obligations by its actions in the labor dispute.

Con Edison spokesman Allan Drury told Reuters the company would file its response to the union complaint with the state Public Service Commission later Tuesday.

Separately, the union has pointed to a power transformer at a substation in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn that failed a few days ago and needed to be replaced as a sign that the replacement workers, mostly management, could not keep the system running.

The union said the company was having a difficult time replacing the transformer, in part because the crane operators would not cross the union's picket line.

Union spokesman Melia said Con Edison was trying to send the transformer via a barge from a substation in Astoria, Queens to a dock somewhere in Brooklyn.

Con Edison would not comment on the movement of the transformer but said the failed transformer was not affecting the reliability of the grid because there were lots of redundancies built into the system.

Even after the transformer arrives at the Bensonhurst substation, Con Edison's Drury said, it could still take weeks to hook it up and test it. He said it would take that long with or without the union workforce on the job.

(Editing by Alden Bentley)