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Power grid is tested by heat wave: Will it pass?

The sun shines over towers carrying electrical lines in San Francisco, California.

A heat wave that is sizzling across much of the central and Eastern United States is expected to peak for much of the country Thursday. It’s putting a strain on power supplies across the country.

But officials with North America’s largest power grid, PJM, say the system can handle the demand.

“I don’t think we’re gonna break any records at this point,” says Mike Kormos, executive vice president of operations at PJM. “But we are seeing higher-than-usual temperatures and therefore higher-than-usual loads.”

Rich Heidorn Jr., editor of RTO Insider, which covers the electric industry in the Mid-Atlantic, says that much demand can lead to wholesale price spikes, but they’re usually so short-term that most people don’t notice a difference in their monthly energy bills. 

“Most residential consumers, that’s all kind of noise to them because they’re paying a flat price,” Heidorn says.

What you may notice is power suppliers asking you to cut back on energy use voluntarily. Grid operators at ISO New England say Thursday could be one of their highest-demand days ever. They’re advising customers to turn off unneeded lights and turn up the thermostat.

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