IEC, private producers pull out stops to avoid blackouts
Electricity use hits record 11,110 MW; public asked to reduce peak-period demand as heat wave continues.
By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
Electricity usage reached an all-time high Sunday with no sign of a letup in the heat wave plaguing the region, as forecasts call for similar temperatures throughout the week.The Israel Electric Corp. (IEC) has pulled out all the stops in its power-production capability and has activated all private producers as well. And yet, it still cannot guarantee that blackouts won’t leave motorists without traffic lights or trap people in elevators, or that it won’t bring the economy to a standstill.RELATED:Public asked to scrimp on electricity useElectricity prices drop by 9.6 percentEven an hour’s blackout could cost the economy many millions of shekels, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) warned.Demand reached an all-time high 11,110 MW at 2:30 p.m.on Sunday afternoon, exceeding the IEC’s prediction from a day before by over 300 MW.The last all-time high came on the the second day of the last heat wave to hit the region not long ago. The utility thanked the public for heeding its calls to use heavy duty appliances early in the morning or late at night, and not during peak usage times of 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The company said the public’s cooperation was what prevented a blackout on Sunday.AdvertisementThe IEC called on the public to continue to observe that routine again Monday. Dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, vacuum cleaners, electric water heaters, ovens and electric burners should not be used between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. Air conditioners should be set to 25 degrees Celsius.The Compensation Fund for Damages from Nature announced that over 100 farmers, mostly in the North, had reported that hundreds of thousands of chickens died in Sunday’s heat. The damage was estimated at NIS 5m.Many chickens are kept in sub-standard conditions without proper ventilation or space to move. The Agriculture Ministry is in the midst of hammering out a coop reform by setting new standards, but it is not yet clear how far the ministry will be willing to go toward improving conditions for the chickens.The cabinet was supposed to vote on going ahead with Project D – the plan to build two 630 MW coal-fired generators in Ashkelon – on Sunday.Instead, the cabinet discussed the issue but abstained from a vote at the request of Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud), who asked for more time to evaluate and present the hazardous effects of coal-fired power plants.In the run-up to the meeting, Landau sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stating that “the delay [in giving the green light to continue the statutory process for Project D] is very serious. The government is leaving a market in crisis in uncertainty. Continuing to postpone crucial decisions puts the steady generation of electricity in doubt.”IEC CEO Amos Lasker said at the Herzliya Conference in February that “my favorite part of the newspaper used to be the sports pages; now all I care about is the weather forecast.”While many people have reason to sweat these days, Lasker is probably sweating even in his air-conditioned office as he stares at the rising needles on his dials.