During the week of July 15, the U.S. East Coast experienced a severe heat wave, breaking a record in New York on Friday, July 19 when average peak load reached 33,955 MW, topping the previous record of 33,939 MW set in August of 2006. The National Weather Service issued heat advisories throughout the week in major cities, including New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston, and an “excessive heat warning” when the heat index climbed into the triple digits on Friday.
To help manage demand on the system, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) activated its demand response (DR) programs every day during the week to relieve congested areas around New York City, ensure reliable grid operation, and avoid any power outages. On a statewide basis, DR was also called upon on Thursday and Friday as a growing number of households and businesses cranked up their air conditioning systems. NYISO can call on approximately 1,250 MW of DR statewide from customers who receive payments when they reduce their electricity use.
More to Come
Thanks to these DR efforts plus an unprecedented amount of generation resources (including a large supply of available wind power) and interregional coordination, NYISO prevented any outages (with a few minor exceptions). The RTO’s CEO remarked: “This is truly one of the great success stories of New York’s competitive energy markets. With the correct market signals, we are seeing much greater levels of asset availability and performance.” Competitive wholesale electricity markets provide strong incentives for generating plants to operate during periods of peak demand, and on Friday every generator in New York was online.
Although the heat wave also affected the New England area, ISO-NE did not break its all-time peak demand record of 28,130 MW in August 2006, reaching a high of 27,377 MW on Friday.
Given the high demand for power, day-ahead prices for certain peak hours hit above $200 per MWh in New England, above $300 per MWh in New York City, and $350 per MWh in Long Island – considerably higher than the typical prices for these areas of around $30 to $60 per MWh.
Climate scientists warn that these types of extreme heat waves are likely to become increasingly common in the United States. This latest event may just be a warm-up, as it were, for what residents and businesses must prepare for in the coming years. If utilities and grid operators can continue to find ways to avoid power outages and large-scale blackouts through various demand-side resources, such as energy efficiency and DR initiatives, the human and financial impacts will be less severe.