24/7 Wall St. has been wondering just how long it would be before power companies in the Northeast and Midwest started asking — or demanding — that customers take efforts to conserve their electricity use to help avoid a blackout or rolling power outages. After all, weather conditions are extremely cold and expected to remain that way for the coming days. Many customers around the nation have already been warned that their gas and electric bills may soon be far more than customers have been used to.
The time has now arrived. PJM Interconnection is the electric grid operator for more than 61 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia, and it is the main power region in America. The grid operator is now requesting that electricity customers located in the BGE and Pepco regions to conserve electricity Thursday and Friday.
Frigid weather is the reason, but the issue is that power demand is up at a rate that it is placing stress on the grid. PJM is asking consumers to conserve electricity, with a particular focus from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Friday, in order to help assure adequate power supplies.
PJM said that it and its members are managing a very tight power supply during this cold weather, and this is causing some generating units to operate more often and for more hours than normal. Where the warning comes into play is that unplanned shutdowns can further tighten power supplies.
PJM covers all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Its transmission grid includes some 62,556 miles of transmission lines.
This is not the first request in 2014 for consumers to conserve their electricity usage. The first such request was back on January 6, and that request was extended on January 7 until being lifted on January 8.
While the grid operator is specifying “if health permits it,” there are several electricity conservation steps that PJM is suggesting:
- Set thermostats lower than usual, if health permits,
- Postpone using major electric appliances such as stoves, dishwashers and clothes dryers until mid-day or after 9 p.m., when the demand for electricity decreases, and
- Turn off electric lights and appliances that you do not need or are not using.