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Danville Utilities is requesting that its electric customers conserve power Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. because of a peak alert issued by its wholesale power supplier. A peak alert is not a shortage of electricity; it simply means that demand for electricity across the regional power grid that serves Danville may be at its highest point of the year.
This extra power needed to supply the peak demand — the electric utility industry’s equivalent of rush-hour traffic — is when power costs skyrocket. Transmission and generation capacity charges for Danville and other utilities are set, in part, during these periods of high demand. With each added megawatt used, utilities are billed thousands of dollars in peaking charges.
“Since electricity can’t be stored, it must be produced on demand,” Utilities Director Jason Grey explained Tuesday. “During peak demand periods, additional generators are required, which drive up energy costs.”
Danville buys power on the open market and is part of the PJM grid, or the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland Electric Regional Transmission Operator. Temperatures in communities across this region are expected to reach the mid to upper 90s this week.
In Danville, a high of 92 is forecast on Wednesday, 94 on Thursday and 95 on Friday.
PJM bases its generation capacity charges on the five highest peak usage hours from June through September. Peak usage in the summer likely will occur on hot and humid afternoons when air conditioners are working extra hard to cool homes and workplaces.
In addition to generation capacity charges, Danville and other utilities incur added transmission costs during periods of peak demand. Danville’s transmission provider is American Electric Power (AEP).
AEP bases its transmission charges on the highest peak usage hour in a year. To date, the peak usage this year for Danville occurred on Jan. 9 when temperatures reached a record low. Grey said a new peak is likely to be set this week.
American Municipal Power, the wholesale power supplier for Danville and more than 130 other members in five states, monitors the power grid and issues peak alerts as needed.
“Peak alerts are not often called, but when they are we ask that every resident and business take them seriously and do their part,” Grey said. “Every small action counts, and the cumulative effect becomes substantial.”
Customers can take simple conservation steps such as shutting off lights when not needed; unplugging small appliances and electric chargers (especially those with small lights); raising the thermostat a degree or two; closing curtains, drapes and blinds; doing laundry, running the dishwasher and other household chores requiring electricity during hours other than the peak hours; and turning off televisions, computers, radios, and other electronic devices when not being used.