Hot weather puts strain on power grid, but company that runs it says they're ready

Jim Melwert
July 20, 2020 - 5:12 pm
PJM Interconnection control room

Courtesy of PJM Interconnection


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)  It’s been a tricky year to forecast energy usage because of the pandemic, according to the company that runs the power grid for the Mid-Atlantic region. But the company said peak demand during this run of high temperatures is about what they’ve been planning for.

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PJM Interconnection runs the grid for 13 states and Washington D.C. 

According to senior vice president of operations Michael Bryson, they start planning for heat waves and hot summer days months in advance. But as they mapped out this summer, they had the obvious variable of the pandemic.

Bryson said while residential demand was up in the spring, overall electricity demand was down because of a dip in industrial and commercial demand.

Related: Philadelphia issues first heat health emergency of 2020, will open cooling centers

“One of the unknowns going into the summer was now you have the heat,” Bryson said, “now you have air conditioners in residential houses maybe running more, a lot more than in the past, and some of the businesses are starting to come back.”

He said that’s another variable, because industrial and commercial systems tend to be much more efficient to save money since energy costs are a big part of manufacturing. 

But residential systems, he explained, aren’t all that efficient.

That has them trying to figure out the right power distribution. 

“What’s the right distribution and balance between the commercial, industrial and residential? Where, really, are the people and who’s running what?” he said. 

So far, Bryson said, they’re right where they thought they’d be between 145,000 to 148,000 megawatts, which is a bit off last year’s high of 151,000 megawatts. 

The highest, he said, was 165,000 megawatts back in 2006.

One megawatt powers about 1,000 residential customers.