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New York breaks peak power usage record in heat wave

A boy plays with water during a hot day in New York July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A boy plays with water during a hot day in New York July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Scott DiSavino

(Reuters) - New York State's power grid operator said power usage on Friday broke a record set in 2006 as consumers cranked up their air conditioners to escape sweltering six day-long heat wave.

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) forecast consumer demand use peaked at 33,955 megawatts on Friday, up from 33,450 MW on Thursday, breaking the state's all-time record of 33,939 MW set in 2006.

One megawatt powers about 1,000 homes.

NYISO said it was possible that demand could continue to rise and the record peak load could change later on Friday.

"Due to the superb teamwork and coordination of New York's transmission owning utilities, electric generating companies, demand response resources, energy services providers and government agencies, we have successfully met record-high electric demand with sustained reliable operation of the bulk electric system," NYISO Chief Executive Stephen Whitley said in statement.

Earlier on Friday, Consolidated Edison Inc, the state's biggest utility, said power demand in its New York City and Westchester service area had reached an all time high of 13,214 MW at 2 p.m. ET, 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) on Friday and 94 F on Saturday, according to weather forecaster AccuWeather.com. Thunderstorms on Saturday are expected to break the heat wave.

So far this week, the mercury 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. Regional power grid operators and utilities have not had to take any major steps to keep the lights on and air conditioners humming.

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 could reduce power usage by more than 1,250 MW.

ISO New England, which operates the power grid for the six New England states, said it activated its demand response program on Friday, which could reduce usage by about 400 MW 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, Toni Reinhold)

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