July 18, 2006

US power grid holding up under record usage -FERC

By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. power grid has performed
well this week as record electricity demand has stretched
across six key regions, the chairman of the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC) said on Tuesday.

"The past 24 hours has been the most severe test of the
system in a long time," FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher told
Reuters in an interview, pointing to an improbable situation
where triple-digit temperatures sent power demand to record
highs on grids from coast to coast.

Power grids that collectively serve 28 states in the
Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions, along with separate grids in
California, New York and Texas, logged all-time records on
Monday, as customers cranked up air conditioners to dodge the

Two of those grids were expected to see fresh highs again
on Tuesday, and New England's grid set a new record as well.

The U.S. grid is not out of the woods yet, with hot
temperatures still in store this summer, Kelliher said.

"The hottest weather of the summer may still be yet to come
so this might not be the only test," he said. "But so far we
are passing the test."

So far the U.S. grid has escaped a repeat of the August
2003 blackout that left 50 million people in the Northeast
United States and Canada without power.

FERC has called for new mandatory reliability standards and
issued new rules to spur new investment in power grids and
power generation plants.

The low number of unplanned power station outages this week
has been "hugely significant" in keeping regional grid
operators from running short, Kelliher said.

Earlier this year, FERC staff named five regions as
possible problem spots this summer -- Southern California,
Southwest Connecticut, New York, Long Island and Ontario.

None of those regions has been especially problematic this
week, Kelliher said.

"It looks pretty good across the board," Kelliher said.

New England's power grid operator appeared to be short of
power on Tuesday but managed to supply customers despite a
"very close call" with power supplies, he said.

The ISO New England forecasted a record peak of 27,750
megawatts, which it met by importing power from Canada.

FERC has approved a plan that would give the grid's power
suppliers new incentives to build new plants. This year
suppliers have added 12 megawatts of new supply, while demand
has increased 2,700 megawatts, he said.