El Paso Electric officials are asking customers to conserve power as the utility hit a new high for electricity consumption this week as the El Paso-Las Cruces area continues to swelter in triple-digit heat and gets little moisture.
It’s possible the peak electric demand record could be broken again as the heat wave continues, said George De La Torre, an EPE spokesperson.
EPE is handling the increased electric usage by having all its local power plants operating, De La Torre said. So, El Paso is not likely to suffer major power outages due to the heat, he said. However, some of the power generators needed during peak demand are old and cost more to operate because they use more natural gas, he said. That will increase electric bills for customers, he said.
Also, the price of natural gas, which is passed to EPE customers, has been increasing because the heat wave is hitting much of the country’s power producers, he noted.
The utility hit an unofficial peak of 2,201 megawatts Tuesday between 5 and 6 pm, as the temperature hit 107 degrees at the El Paso International Airport and 106 degrees at the Las Cruces airport – well above normal highs of mid- to upper-90s.
The utility’s previous peak demand record was set June 14, 2021, at 2,051 megawatts.
The intense heat, an increase of 5,700 customers since last year, and an increase in the use of refrigerated air conditioning has increased electricity demand, De La Tore said. Refrigerated air conditioning uses three times more electricity than evaporative air conditioners, he said.
As of Thursday, the El Paso-Las Cruces area had recorded seven consecutive days of temperatures at 100 degrees or more since July 15, National Weather Service records show.
Triple-digit heat, and hit-and-miss thunderstorms in El Paso and Las Cruces are expected to continue through the weekend, said Conner Dennahardt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
The monsoonal plume, which normally brings frequent, and often heavy rainstorms to this area in the summer, has been stuck west of El Paso, he said.
While widespread power outages haven’t hit the El Paso Electric service area, the intense heat and increased electricity demand can take its toll on transformers and fuses, and cause neighborhood power outages, De La Torre said. That’s why the utility stocks up on that equipment prior to the hot weather season, he said.
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EPE officials are asking customers to conserve energy during the peak usage time of 2 to 8 pm That includes setting air conditioning thermostats at 78 degrees or higher, and at least 80 degrees when not at home; not using appliances from 3 to 6 pm; using ceiling and portable fans to circulate cool air; and closing interior window coverings to block the sun.
During Tuesday’s peak demand event, El Paso Electric had air conditioning thermometers remotely raised for two hours at customers’ homes enrolled in its voluntary energy Wise Savings Program, De La Torre said. That program has 9,460 customers in the El Paso area, and 2,460 in the Las Cruces area.
El Paso Water also has seen a large demand for water during the heat wave, but nowhere near record consumption levels set in 2020, Denise Parra, a spokesperson for the city-operated utility, said in an email.
El Pasoans are water conscious, and “EP Water has made improvements to the water system for times like these to ensure we have enough water to meet demands,” Parra said
However, she said, customers need to continue their good water-conservation habits, especially outside. Outside watering is not allowed from 10 am to 6 pm, and homes need to adhere to their odd/even address watering schedule, she noted.
Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; firstname.lastname@example.org; @Vickolenc on Twitter.