Program helps ease burden on power grid

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With all the heat and humidity predicted this week, those who provide electricity for homes and businesses to keep air conditioners and fans working are themselves working to ensure the power is there when it’s needed.

On Monday, our television station switched over to generator power for several hours to reduce overall demand on the electrical grid. But the station is part of a much larger network of higher-energy users taking part in what’s called a demand response program, which was set up to help ease the burden on power generators like First Energy.

“Where demand is particularly high for electricity, we can call on parties that have already registered with PJM and agreed to reduce their power use. It then enables that much more power to be available to meet the needs of the rest of the public,” said Paula Dupont-Kidd of PJM Interconnection.

PJM Interconnection is in the business of coordinating energy transmission systems in 13 states in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions. Approximately 400 businesses in northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania switched over to generator power on Monday to ease demand on the overall system.

“It’s just a way of helping with that peak demand, just enough to get us over that hump, so to speak,” said Mark Durbin of First Energy.

Durbin said a number of First Energy’s power plants have been deactivated recently in part because of reduced overall demand from customers, but also because of stricter operating requirements from the U.S. EPA.

“It’s not unreasonable to assume that a company like First Energy, or some other generators, might decide to just close that plant down rather than try to retrofit it,” Durbin said.

Customers taking part in the demand response program not only reduce their own electric bills by switching to generator power, but they also can make money for every kilowatt they are not using, Dupont-Kidd said.

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