Cranking up the air conditioner is one way to stay cool during an oppressive heat wave, but with electricity usage forecast to reach near record-breaking levels this week, National Grid is asking consumers to voluntarily conserve electricity to help keep supply and demand in balance during the hot spell.
“There’s always a concern when we have prolonged hot weather, but rarely do we see five to six days of this kind of oppressive heat and humidity,” said National Grid Spokesman David D. Graves.
The extremely hot temperatures and high levels of humidity this week in Southern New England could drive regional electricity use to near-record levels, with the highest peak demand forecasted for Thursday at a whopping 27,800 megawatts.
But Graves says people shouldn’t worry about blackouts, brownouts, or any other power failure due to demand for electricity. That’s because ISO New England, which manages regional electricity demand, is monitoring the power system closely. If demand for electricity were to outstrip supply, Graves says, ISO can take steps to bring the system back into balance when forecasted demand is expected to be high, including calling on consumers to curtail electric energy use and seeking additional power from neighboring regions.
“If demand for electricity were to outstrip supply, ISO would take a series of steps, including issuing advisories to turn off air conditioning and reduce electrical use,” says Graves. “The last step is what is called ‘load shedding.”
Load shedding is an intentionally engineered electrical power shutdown where electricity delivery is stopped for non-overlapping periods of time over different parts of the distribution region. It’s a last-resort measure used by an electric company to avoid a total blackout of the power system, and so far, has never had to be implemented in New England, according to Graves.
“I’ve been with National Grid for nine years and we’ve never had to do it,” he says. “We practice for it, but we’ve never had to do it.”
According to ISO New England, New England’s current all-time record for electricity usage is 28,130 megawatts, which was set on Aug. 2, 2006. In New England, one megawatt of electricity can power approximately 1,000 homes.
In comparison, Monday’s peak load was 26,102 megawatts and Tuesday’s and today’s forecasted peak demand is expected to be in the range of 27,500 to 27,700 megawatts.
The highest peak demand is forecasted for Thursday at 27,800 megawatts.
Last summer, electricity usage peaked on July 17 at 25,880 megawatts.
Although power system resources were adequate as of Tuesday, supplies are likely to become tight and consumers are being asked to voluntarily conserve electricity for at least the next three days.
“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, ISO New England’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Therefore, the ISO is asking consumers to voluntarily conserve as a precautionary step to help manage system conditions.”
According to Chadalavada, taking simple, practical steps to reduce electricity use, particularly between the hours of noon and 8 p.m., will help maintain system reliability.
To reduce electricity consumption, consumers should:
*Raise air conditioning thermostats by a few degrees if health permits. A suggested temperature range is between 74 and 78 degrees.
*Turn off unneeded lights and appliances.
*Turn off unnecessary office equipment.
*Shut off air conditioners when leaving home for extended periods of time.
*Defer laundry and other chores requiring electricity until the early morning or late evening hours.
National Grid is also reminding customers to stay cool and safe as temperatures rise.
“National Grid has prepared for the extreme weather and is making sure the electric system is well maintained to help reduce the number of power outages during heat waves when electricity use can soar and harsh weather can strike,” said Keith McAfee, vice president, Upstate New York Operations.