By Scott DiSavino
(Reuters) - New York State's power grid operator said it expects to have enough power Friday to meet a forecast for record electric usage from air conditioners as people try to keep cool in a blistering six day-long heat wave.
The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) forecast consumer power use would peak at 34,600 MW on Friday, up from 33,450 MW on Thursday, which would break the state's all-time record of 33,939 MW set in 2006 before industrial and commercial businesses cut back on power usage during the recession. One megawatt powers about 1,000 homes.
Consolidated Edison Inc, the state's biggest utility, said power demand in its New York City and Westchester service area reached an all time high of 13,214 MW at 2 p.m. Eastern time, breaking the old record of 13,189 MW set on July 22, 2011.
Temperatures in New York City, the biggest metropolitan area in the United States, are expected to reach 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 C) Friday and 94 F on Saturday before thunderstorms later Saturday break the heat wave, according to weather forecaster AccuWeather.com.
So far this week, the mercury has reached 90 F on Sunday, 94 F on Monday and Tuesday, 97 F on Wednesday and 98 F on Thursday. The normal high for this time of year is 84 F degrees.
"Due to the performance of the generation fleet, demand response providers and strong coordination with New York's transmission owners, we expect to meet Friday's peak demand and maintain operating reserve requirements," NYISO spokesman Ken Klapp said.
Regional power grid operators and utilities have not had to take any major steps to keep the lights on and air conditioners humming so far this week, despite the heat wave.
They have asked consumers to conserve power, defer non-essential equipment maintenance and activate demand response programs to reduce energy usage, but there have been no widespread blackouts, just some scattered outages.
NYISO said its demand response programs can reduce power usage by more than 1,250 MW, which may enable the system to avoid breaking the record peak usage on Friday.
ISO New England, which operates the power grid for the six New England states, said it also activated its demand response program, which can reduce usage by about 400 MW, for the first time this week on Friday as power supplies become tight with demand near record levels.
Demand response program participants are compensated for reducing electricity use - and could be penalized for not doing so - by raising air conditioner thermostats and turning off unnecessary lights and other equipment, including elevators, and operating on-site generators to reduce the amount of power needed from the grid.
The biggest power companies in New York include units of Con Edison, 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 Resources Inc, Entergy and Exelon Corp.
(Editing by Grant McCool)