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No Surprise, Summer Power Consumption Sets Records

Suppliers keep up with demand, while debate heats up over need for Highlands transmission lines.

How hot has it been? Enough to set new records for electricity consumption in the PJM Interconnection region, which serves 50 million people in 13 states.

So far, consumers in the region have used 16 percent more electricity than last summer, enough to serve Switzerland for a full year.

Preliminary figures show that overall electricity consumption for June 2010 was 63,898,387 megawatt hours (MWh), surpassing the previous record for June set in 2008 when the consumption was 63,236,074 MWh. July also set a record, at 71,761,819 MWh, topping the July 2006 record of 70,404,227 MWh.

The ability of PJM to meet such high levels of demand is sure to raise the level of debate in New Jersey over whether controversial transmission lines cutting through the Highlands are necessary. Public Service Electric & Gas and PJM have said the lines are needed or the region could experience outage problems by the summer of 2012.

"The higher electricity loads we're seeing are definitely because of the weather," said Michael Kormos, PJM senior vice president of operations in a statement. "Fortunately, it's in these hotter-than-average times when we see the true strength of the coordination between PJM and our member companies who make it possible to meet demand and keep the grid stable."

Since May 25, average temperatures in the region have been the highest they've been since 2006.

So far this year, the peak demand for electricity in the PJM region was 136,680 megawatts (MW) on July 6. Peak demand is the greatest amount of electricity used during a single hour. (One megawatt is enough electricity to serve 800 to 1,000 homes.) This peak amount was 14 percent higher than last year's peak demand. The all-time record peak demand was 144,644 MW set on August 2, 2006.

Consumers also set a new record demand for a Saturday, which is unusual for a weekend when energy use is typically lower because fewer businesses and industries operate. It broke the old record by more than 8,000 MW, enough to power a major city.

The summer has been so hot and demand so great that some of the state's electric utilities have put out press releases warning customers not to be shocked when they receive their monthly bills in the next few weeks.

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