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Heat wave straining U.S. power grid

With much of the U.S. suffering under temperatures in the upper nineties, the nation’s power gird is being taxed to the limit.  And power officials are bracing for continued hot weather forecasts. By CNBC's Diana Olick.
/ Source: CNBC

With much of the U.S. suffering under temperatures in the upper nineties, the nation’s power gird is being taxed to the limit. California hit a new record for energy use Monday. And power officials are bracing for continued hot weather forecasts.

At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, they were closely monitoring the nation's grids Monday, the hottest day of the year so far. While officials there are pleased with new energy policy that is allowing them to set and enforce reliability standards, they admit that's only half the picture on a day like today.

“It isn't just setting reliability standards and enforcing them,” said FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher. “It's having enough electricity supply to meet the needs of consumers. And today really could be the test of the summer on electricity supply because of the hot weather we are seeing and the high demand levels.”

As city workers go door to door in Chicago, checking on the elderly, memories of the rolling blackouts in the Northeast three years ago are especially vivid today. While that was blamed on lax enforcement of reliability standards, it also exposed a weakness in supply given the ever-increasing demand.

“We are entering the largest building phase in our history in terms of building new transmission

Bill Brier, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute. “And that will be a very significant addition and that will help smooth things out. Can outages happen? Of course they can.”

Still federal officials are urging more investment in the nation’s grid, because if we do see blackouts this summer like we did three years ago, the heat on the street will be nothing compared to the heat on them.