Power companies urge conservation as heat wave rolls on

    Keeping cool can come at a high cost, and power companies are trying to get customers to conserve energy.

    An air conditioned home is an oasis this week for residents coping with temperatures in the upper 90’s plus humidity that makes it feel like it’s in the 100’s.  But all that cooling power can cause demand for electricity to skyrocket.

    The Delaware Electric Cooperative hit its peak usage for the year earlier this week.  Co-op President and CEO Bill Andrew says power usage reached 315 MW around 4 Tuesday afternoon.  “Our summer peaks are between 3 and 7 p.m., usually between the hours of 5 and 6.  Our winter peak varies,” says Andrew.  He says a major outage on Monday caused some Cooperative members to lose power for about an hour due to a heat-related equipment failure earlier this week.  Delmarva Power has had similar outages affecting a small fraction of its customers during the heat wave.

    Andrew  says the Cooperative’s Beat the Peak program which notifies members when to cut down on energy use has been very successful.  “When we can engage our members to be part of our cost control and minimize the environmental impact of our usage, they gain directly from that because they are the owner.”  He says customers are notified through TV, radio, email, or an in-home alert light that it is necessary to turn off lights and set their thermostat a few degrees higher to save energy.  “If everyone of our members turned off one 100 watt light bulb during the peak, we would save $1 million a year for our members.  When customers turn off all unnecessary lights, turn off the TVs, don’t use the major appliances, adjust our thermostats, it is huge savings for everybody.  The secret there is to get everybody to do it.”

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    In addition to setting the thermostat higher, Delmarva Power also recommends that customers close curtains and blinds  to keep the sun out.  If necessary, the company says it could reduce voltage delivered to homes to keep power flowing.

    With temperatures expected to hover around the 90-degree mark for at least the next week, the call to conserve will definitely be repeated in the coming days.

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