Brisk weather is quite restful for your wallet Open windows slow area's electricity use

June 23, 1992|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

The same cool weather that has kept the snowball stands shuttered and slowed down business at Ocean City has also slowed the dials on your electric meter and saved you money.

The number of "cooling degree-days" -- a temperature-based estimate of the demand for power to spin fans and run air conditioners -- is down 67 percent so far in this cooling season compared with last year's unusually hot late-spring weather, according to the National Weather Service.

By opening windows instead of switching on their air conditioners, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers cut total sales of residential electricity by 3 percent in May, said BG&E spokesman Art Slusark.

The June numbers were not immediately available, but temperatures so far this month are averaging about 1 degree below normal.

"Not that I'm not enjoying the cool weather myself," said Mr. Slusark. "I haven't run my air conditioner all year myself. I've run the heat, but not the air conditioner."

Mr. Slusark had his heat on early yesterday, when temperatures hit a record low of 46 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The average temperature yesterday was 58 degrees, 16 degrees below the 74-degree norm for the date.

Another record low in Baltimore was expected early today as a cool Canadian high pressure system settled in over the Eastern United States.

Peak loads on BG&E's generators have also shown sharp declines from June norms. "Normally in June we would expect to exceed 5,000 megawatts three or four times," Mr. Slusark said. "The average peak load for June last year was 4,050 megawatts."

"This month, we've been almost all in the 3,000 range, and we haven't exceeded 5,000 at all," he said. "We are looking at a peak load today of maybe 3,200" megawatts.

Despite the mild winter and cool run-up to summer, he said, BG&E'searnings have been up in 1992 compared with last year. As mild as it was last winter, the previous winter was even milder.

At the Valley Forge, Pa., nerve center for the electrical power grid that links utilities from New York City to Northern Virginia, energy managers were watching to see whether overnight demand would fall below the minimum levels at which generators on line across the region can operate.

"If we get to the point where everything is at its minimum, we would . . . try to sell power outside the pool . . . or take units off the line," said Bob Woodward, manager of the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland Interconnection.

Compared with the more familiar summertime routine of scrambling to meet soaring hot-weather demands for power, "this isn't much fun," he said. "It's more exciting when there's load to carry."

Maryland has had repeated encounters with Canadian air since March.

"Some people have enjoyed it," said Fred Davis, the National Weather Service's chief meteorologist at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "They know what it can be like in other Junes."

Last June, for example, saw 12 days with highs in the 90s and 11 days in the 80s.

This year, March and April both averaged 2 degrees below normal, Mr. Davis said. May was 2.6 degrees below normal.

Until the 15th of this month, "we were just about normal," he said. But then daily temperatures began to sag again, and on Sunday, the bottom fell out as a new wave of Canadian air pushed south across the Eastern United States.

Sunday's 63-degree average temperature at the airport was 11 degrees below normal for the date.

"And it was Father's Day, too, and I wanted to go out in my boat," Mr. Davis said. "I did it anyway, but I froze."

Yesterday averaged 16 degrees colder than normal.

Yesterday's low of 46 degrees at BWI demolished the previous record of 51 degrees set in 1963. The low downtown was 53 degrees, tying the record low set there 1973.

It was 50 chilly degrees with a stiff breeze early yesterday in Ocean City. It was 46 in Westminster and Annapolis, and even colder -- 45 degrees -- in Waldorf in Charles County, according to state police reports.

The record lows for today's date are 50 degrees at BWI, and 52 degrees downtown, both set in 1972.

The six-to-10-day forecast for Maryland calls for continued below-normal temperatures through July 2, with near-normal precipitation.

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