How the Heat Wave Is Taxing Our Power Grid

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The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) manages the state’s power grid and administers the $11 billion bulk wholesale energy market for the state. It also has responsibility for operating nearly 11,000 miles of transmission wires and over 500 electricity power generators as well as planning for future energy needs.

Earlier this morning, the state’s energy demand surpassed last summer's peak energy load (30,844 megawatts). And as of 4:44 p.m., the state’s peak load hit 33,489 megawatts, higher than the forecasted peak level for the 2010 summer but less than the record 33,939 megawatts set on August 2, 2006. Electricity use usually peaks between 4 and 5 p.m.

The NYISO believes that the state’s electricity infrastructure can handle the demand, but today in New York City it did activate its “Demand Response” program through which preregistered businesses reduce energy consumption and sell back the energy so it can be distributed elsewhere. The NYISO believes it will get back about 440 megawatts of electricity from the program, which usually runs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. The businesses in return are paid the real-time price of energy when they sell it back. Last year, the average annual price was about $50 per megawatt. Currently, the price is nearly $186 per megawatt in New York City and $250 per megawatt in Long Island.

Businesses can lower their energy consumption by adjustment their thermostats, reducing lighting, or using fewer elevators.

Similar to the NYISO, an organization called PJM Interconnection provides electricity services in New Jersey and 12 other states along with Washington, D.C. It does not expect to break the previous demand record, also set on August 2, 2006.