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As heat wave takes aim at NYC, Con Edison promises 'safe and reliable service'

Consolidated Edison workers examine electrical infrastructure under West

Consolidated Edison workers examine electrical infrastructure under West End Avenue at West 64th Street in Manhattan on Sunday, a day after a widespread power outage hit parts of the borough. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The heat is on, and Con Edison says it’s up to the challenge.

New York City is expecting a heat wave this weekend, with temperatures hovering near the 100-degree mark through Sunday. The heat index will make it feel even hotter, with temperatures closer to 115 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, which issued an excessive heat advisory for the five boroughs through 8 p.m. Sunday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a heat emergency and ordered large office buildings to conserve energy by setting thermostats at 78 degrees to help alleviate the strain on the city’s power grid.

Tim Cawley, president of Con Ed of New York, held a news conference Friday to assure New Yorkers the utility is fully prepared to provide “safe and reliable service through the weekend.”

“We are confident in the system. We spend all year preparing for periods like this,” Cawley said during the event inside a command center set up to coordinate Con Ed's response to the heat wave.

The increased strain on the system comes about a week after a relay protection system failed to prevent a massive blackout in Manhattan, leaving 72,000 customers in the dark for close to five hours.

Some elected officials, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, aren’t convinced Con Ed is fully prepared to handle the heat. Williams held a news conference Friday afternoon to demand accountability from the utility, particularly in light of a recent rate hike that was meant to go toward infrastructure repairs.

"Con Edison, a company responsible for the second highest rates in the country, is once again asking New Yorkers for a rate hike, claiming that the money is needed to ensure proper repairs and safety measures," Williams said. "Yet previous rate hikes have not led to the measures that Con Ed claims will finally solve the problems."

However, Cawley said he is “very confident” that New Yorkers will not see a repeat of last Saturday’s blackout, adding that the utility does not have any concerns over another relay system failure.

At its peak, Con Ed’s system is designed to handle about 13,200 megawatts of power, Cawley said. The utility is expecting usage to reach between 11,500 to 11,900 megawatts this weekend, which would rival peak weekend demand during a heat event of this magnitude. The system would more likely reach the system peak if a heat wave struck during the workweek, when more businesses are operating at full capacity and demand for air conditioning is higher.

Still the utility has ramped up its staffing and made other preparations ahead of the weekend, should anything go awry.

“We are poised to respond should outages come in. … We are ready to identify them, dispatch and resolve them as quickly as possible,” Cawley said.

The heat wave is expected to break on Monday, when the temperature will dip down to the mid-80s, according to the National Weather Service.

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