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BGE limits power usage at some homes, notes scattered outages

Some power outages reported, but utility says it has capacity to meet high demand

By Edward Gunts, The Baltimore Sun

3:33 PM EDT, July 22, 2011

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With area temperatures breaking the 100-degree mark, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. Friday activated a power management program to reduce the amount of electricity some residential customers use.

BGE representatives underscored an ongoing request for customers to conserve energy wherever possible and said Friday that the utility was responding to "scattered power outages" that may be associated with the hot weather.

The utility's website indicated that 3,164 residential customers were without power as of 2:50 p.m. Friday, including 2,744 in Baltimore County and 355 in Baltimore City. BGE spokeswoman Linda J. Foy said she could not say exactly how many of the outages were weather related, but it was a likely cause for many of them.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, temperatures reached 107 degrees in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and an excessive heat warning remained in effect until 10 p.m.

BGE took steps to limit about 450,000 residential customers' energy usage at about 11:30 a.m. Friday, when it activated the "PeakRewards" air conditioning and water heater programs. Officials said they expect the program, which is voluntary, to remain in effect until at least late afternoon.

BGE customers who enrolled will experience "cycling" of central air conditioning units and water heaters in return for credit on their bills. Those on the air conditioning program, for example, will have their units' compressors cycled at 50, 75 or 100 percent. Those who selected 100 percent cycling for the maximum bill credits will have their compressors off for the duration of the PeakRewards "event."

BGE officials also asked customers to conserve energy by closing curtains and blinds, setting thermostats at 78 degrees or higher, and turning off non-essential appliances.

While BGE officials expected energy usage to be very high Friday, company representatives did not expect to set a new all time high for summer energy usage.

The current all time record for summer energy usage in BGE's Central Maryland service area is 7,198 megawatts, set on August 3, 2006. Peak usage for a typical summer day is 5,500 megawatts. One megawatt is generally enough electricity to power 1,000 homes, officials say.

In a statement, A. Christopher Burton, senior vice president of gas and electric operations and planning for BGE, said the company expects to have sufficient power to meet customers' demand.

BGE, a subsidiary of Constellation Energy, is Maryland's largest gas and electric utility and delivers power to more than 1.2 million electricity customers and more than 650,000 natural gas customers in Central Maryland.

BGE's call for customers to conserve energy is one of several made by companies and institutions around Maryland. Officials at the University of Maryland Baltimore campus asked employees to limit power consumption in a message sent out Friday.

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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