Con Ed gears up for energy crunch

June 2, 2008 5:45:01 PM PDT
The summer-like temperatures this week mark the start of a different kind of season for Con Edision. It is the beginning of the high-pressure season, the time of the year when the giant utility is faced with a power crunch.

This summer, Con Ed is spending more than $1 billion to upgrade it's systems. But will it work?

Eyewitness News reporter Tim Fleischer has more.

Morningside Heights is heating up, and with new development, Con Edison is trying to satisfy the growing demand for more electricity.

"We're putting three units in...and it's going to need it, down the road and in the future," Con Ed operating supervisor Lou Guglielmetti said.

Guglielmetti leads the installation feeding new power to an 18-story apartment building. Later, field operation planner Tim Schlauraff's crew will wire it to the area's grid.

"The units here will help feed the building, and at the same time, if the building load should go down, we can also feed the street and feed the grid as well," he said.

The utility is spending $1.7 billion to handle electrical demands. Half is allocated for new buildings. The rest is for replacement and repair.

"I've been through three blackouts, but only one as a restaurant owner, and that was devastating because you have to throw out all the things you've worked so hard to produce," Norma Jean Darden said.

And Darden, of Spoonbread Restaurants, does not want a costly repeat.

"I don't anticipate anything like what occurred back in 2006," Con Ed vice president of electrical operations John Midsad said.

It was an outage that lasted more than a week, with heavy costs to customers. Now, new developments create new demands, says Con Edison. Just look in your own home. Officials say 88 percent use computers, 92 percent cool down with air conditions and the flat panel TV's use three times the power of traditional sets.

"It all adds to the energy intensity that this grid is required to provide," Miksad said.

Remember August of 2006, when temperatures soared and electrical demand hit a new high? Con Edison is predicting a new peak load this summer.

So replacement work continues around the clock, new installation too, leaving Darden hopeful.

"I know they're working on it, so we can only trust that it will happen," she said.