PSEG Long Island remotely adjusted the central air conditioners of some 30,000 customers Tuesday in an effort to cut peak electrical use due to hot weather, officials said.
The "curtailment" program allows the utility to cut energy use in participating homes by turning off the cooling compressors of the air conditioners for 30 minutes each hour. The result is a slight increase in home temperatures.
The program reduces power usage by 35 megawatts, PSEG said. A megawatt powers about 800 homes. Customers can override the system.
At 3:50 p.m. Tuesday, peak usage on the system was 5,046 megawatts, a high for this summer on Long Island, but below LIPA's all-time high of 5,915 megawatts, hit in July 2011.
The PSEG energy curtailment program was in effect from 3 to 6 p.m. LIPA previously had been criticized for rarely using the program, despite paying more than $30 million to set it up. PSEG wants to modernize the thermostat system as part of its $200 million Utility 2.0 proposal to reduce energy usage. The cost is around $600 per home for new thermostats.
PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the program was enacted Tuesday to "reduce load on the system and create savings for customers," by lowering their use, and potentially reducing next year's capacity requirements, which are set by looking back at the previous year's peak. He noted the local grid has ample electrical supply.
Reducing system stress can help stem outages, such as one reported by Marge Gallagher, a Garden City resident. She said power went out at 3 p.m. Sunday and wasn't restored until noon on Monday. Then it went out again for a few hours, she said. She said she was not pleased with PSEG's response.
"The lights went out and nobody called us," she said, after repeated attempts to reach the utility's enhanced new service line. "It didn't work. We called them and got the tape."
Weir said outages in the Garden City area over the weekend were the result of a lightning strike and a blown transformer. A separate outage in New Hyde Park resulted from a private tree contractor cutting a main power line.
Gallagher said technicians could be heard yelling to each other during the outage well into the night as they attempted to replace a damaged transformer on a pole. She said residents told her the equipment turned out to be defective and needed to be replaced the next day, leading to the second outage.
Weir said the crews "responded and worked diligently to get service restored as safely and as quickly as possible."