AUGUSTA — As the summer sun turned up the heat on Maine, utilities around New England and Gov. Angus S. King issued a call Tuesday for consumers to turn down their air conditioning and use fewer lights to conserve power.
King said there may be a half dozen more “conservation days” called by the New England Power Pool through the summer.
“The bottom line is when these days come, people should cut back on electrical usage,” King said. “We didn’t expect those days to come until mid-July. They came a little early this year.”
Meanwhile, several hundred state employees were sent home for the second afternoon in a row when temperatures in some offices without air conditioning soared above 90 degrees with the humidity level over 65 percent.
Other state employees worked in darkened offices and King turned off air conditioners at the Blaine House to help reduce energy consumption. He also turned off the electric hot water heater for the day at his home in Brunswick.
“Because Maine Yankee is down, and several nuclear power plants in Connecticut are down, the New England Power Pool is right at its margin. There’s a little bit of surplus, but not anywhere near what there should be,” said King.
“We were lucky in a sense that Seabrook (the New Hampshire nuclear power plant) went back on line on Saturday. If it hadn’t, we really would have had a shortage.”
There haven’t been any new power plants added in New England since Seabrook was opened in 1990.
“We will be asking people if they can defer noncritical electrical usage between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.,” King said. “It will save us from having actual power shortages, brownouts, blackouts and the like.
“Don’t wash clothes, don’t dry clothes, don’t use the dishwasher, turn down air conditioning to a lower level. Volunteer conservation can save 1 to 4 percent of demand, which translates into an awful lot of power.
“Whatever you can turn off and do without for the day is the way we should be going,” King said.
“We want to avoid brownouts and blackouts,” King said. “That’s why it’s prudent to take intermediate steps. We are facing a possible shortage. We ought to do what we can to make it as minor as possible.”
Gail Rice of Central Maine Power Co. said the Conservation Days effort has two goals. One is to keep demand from exceeding supply of electricity. The other goal is to avoid activating dirty fossil-fuel power plants that pollute the air.
CMP has reactivated its oil-fired Mason Station plant in Wiscasset, which was mothballed in 1991, but CMP hasn’t actually had to use the plant to make power yet, Rice said.
William Cohen of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. said, “Bangor Hydro is fine today and it looks like we’ll be OK for the next couple of days. Bangor Hydro does not project a problem in its service area.”
But if there’s a power shortage in heavily populated southern New England, Cohen said Bangor Hydro will do its part by asking customers to cut back on their power use to help reduce the region’s energy demand.
Bangor Hydro uses a jingle and the slogan “Energy Light” when it asks customers to cut back.
Virginia Joles of Maine Public Service Co. in Presque Isle said the northern Maine utility was more oriented to Canadian power sources and did not need to urge its customers to scale back power use in the summer.
“We’re not in a deficit situation,” said Joles.