- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

Electricity demand in the mid-Atlantic region yesterday broke the peak usage record set last summer, but area utility companies said they are equipped to handle this week’s heat wave.

“We have already exceeded the peak record that we set last summer and usage continues to climb,” said Ray Dotter, spokesman for PJM, which operates the power grid on behalf of electric companies in the District and parts of 13 states, including Maryland and Virginia.

Mr. Dotter said he did not think area residents will have to cope with any brownouts — or voltage reductions — this week.

“Right now we are OK, and we can expect to be OK,” Mr. Dotter said.

He said the peak usage record set last July 26 was 133,763 megawatts, and he expected yesterday’s usage to peak at about 140,000 megawatts. One megawatt can power about 1,000 homes for a day.

As lower temperatures move into the Midwest, forecasters predict that the prevailing jet stream will keep temperatures in the 90s on the East Coast through Friday.

The Washington area’s three electric companies said they will be able to meet this week’s high demand but called for customers to conserve energy.

“At this time, we feel pretty comfortable that we’ll be able to meet the demand of our customers so we’re not anticipating any issues with our system,” said Baltimore Gas & Electric spokeswoman Linda Foy.

“There are adequate supplies but we are asking customers to try to conserve energy, or at least use it wisely,” said Robert Dobkin, a spokesman for Pepco.

Pepco’s two reserve power plants were operating yesterday, Mr. Dobkin said. The plants operate fewer than 20 days a year and kick in during periods of extreme heat or cold to meet spikes in demand.

Dominion had most of its 27 reserve plants operating yesterday, said Dan Genest, a spokesman for the Richmond utility company. He did not think a voltage reduction would be necessary this week.

“We do not anticipate having to do that during this heat wave. We have plenty of capacity on our own to meet demand in Northern Virginia, and it appears as if PJM has the capacity to do it,” Mr. Genest said. “We still ask for people to conserve energy.”

Consumers can conserve energy a variety of ways, especially by cutting back on electric use during hours of peak demand.

Electricity use peaks between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. when people come home from work, cook dinner and turn on the air conditioning, appliances and lights, said Ms. Foy of BGE. Many businesses remain open during this time, adding to demand.

“Consider doing household chores in the evening when demand begins to drop,” Ms. Foy said. This would mean putting off using heat-producing appliances, such as washers and dryers, until later in the evening, or cooking outdoors.

“It’s a good day to grill,” Mr. Genest said.

To keep the house cool all day, Ms. Foy suggested keeping blinds and curtains closed. Mr. Genest urged consumers to check the air filters in their air conditioners — if they’re dirty, they’re less efficient.

Turning up the thermostat one degree can save consumers 3 percent to 5 percent on cooling costs, Mr. Dobkin said. Consumers should also turn off nonessential lights and appliances.

“During this period, everything’s running and supplies tighten up a little bit, so a little conservation helps us get through the peak of the day,” Mr. Dobkin said.

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