Record cold temperatures may be causing misery for millions, but power suppliers are enjoying a rare seasonal windfall as prices for electricity soared to record levels in the past few days. As people bundled up to cope with the coldest air mass to descend on much of the country in 20 years, the nation’s largest operator of a regional electric grid struggled to meet demand, which set a record yesterday for power use in winter months.
That demand led to an enormous spike in power prices. Typically in the $40 to $60 per megawatt range at this time of year, they skyrocketed as high as $1,800 per megawatt hour across the entire PJM region, including New Jersey. A megawatt of electricity is enough to power about 1,000 homes. PJM Interconnection, the operator of a power grid serving 61 million people that stretches from New Jersey and other mid-Atlantic states to Illinois, said the frigid weather caused a myriad of problems for power plants.
Some broke down because of the cold. Others were unable to obtain the natural gas that fuels them. And some power plants that were not used to running at maximum capacity for extended periods -- as urged by PJM -- also faltered.
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