July 18, 2006

Power grid survives heat; Northeast sets peak

By Eileen O'Grady

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. electric system survived a
second day of heat-related demand on Tuesday with no major
power outages, said utilities and grid operators.

A promised second day of record-breaking electric
consumption failed to materialize amid thunderstorms in Texas,
slightly lower temperatures and conservation efforts in New
York and California.

Moderating temperatures predicted for the remainder of the
week offer some relief to overtaxed utilities, said Stan
Johnson, manager of situation awareness for a national grid
organization. "The whole-country heat wave will break a bit on
Wednesday," said Johnson.

Johnson said advance planning by grid operators and
power-plant owners nearly a week ago when weather forecasts
predicted the heat wave was critical.

"The system performed very well," said Johnson. "Forced
outages (of power plants) were low and the transmission system
worked well."

Only the New England states established a new record for
power demand on Tuesday, at 27,374 megawatts, breaking a mark
of 26,885 megawatts set July 27, 2005, according to ISO New

"Temperatures in the mid-90s and high humidity combined to
drive electricity use to record levels," said Stephen Whitley,
chief operating officer for ISO New England, the grid operator
for 14 million people in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode
Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

Electric use in other areas of the country, including New
York, Texas and California, fell short of Monday's
record-setting pace despite higher forecasts issued for

Thunderstorms around midday in the area around Texas's
largest city of Houston significantly cut afternoon power
demand in the state, according to the Electric Reliability
Council of Texas, or ERCOT.

Conservation efforts, known as demand-response, also helped
limit rising power use in New York, according to the state's
grid operator.

Southern California Edison, which serves 4.7 million power
customers, said calls to conserve power helped keep overall
consumption down on Monday, keeping SCE's demand below its
existing peak.

While the first test was met, summer is not over, said
Johnson. "You can also see some peaks being set in August. It's
all a function of the weather."

(Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and
Bernie Woodall in Los Angeles)