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Florida utilities see record power use amid cold

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Electric consumption in Florida reached record levels on Monday as freezing temperatures continue to grip much of the state, utilities said.

Florida Power & Light, a unit of FPL Group the state's largest utility, set an all-time hour power-use record early Monday, reaching 24,354 megawatts, a spokesman said.

That surpassed the utility's all-time demand record of 22,361 MW set in August 2005.

"This is extreme cold and it is all across the state," said FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski.

Progress Energy Florida, a unit of Progress Energy set a new hourly record Thursday of 10,299 MW, exceeding a February 6, 2009, record of 10,276 MW, a spokeswoman said.

The St. Petersburg-based utility did not have power consumption data for early Monday when a new record was possible.

Both utilities urged residents to conserve electricity as record-low temperatures are forecast to continue across the state for several days.

"Demand is approaching the maximum capabilities of the system," said Glenn S. Dooley, director of Progress Energy's control center.

Progress Energy's 838-MW Crystal River 3 nuclear reactor has been shut since late September when a crack was discovered in the wall of the containment building.

Monday's temperatures are about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius) below normal for January from Jacksonville to Miami, according to DTN Meteorlogix. A slow warming trend will push temperatures to normal by Friday.

The state's power grid reliability agency issued a generating capacity advisory Sunday to remain in effect until midnight.

Some scattered power outages have been reported.

FPL has activated its voluntary load management program to save up to 600 MW of demand and switched some power plants to oil-based fuel to limit consumption of natural gas, the company said.

The state's two gas pipelines are operating at maximum capacity, FPL said.

Of the state's 51,000 MW of generation, about 18 percent can run on oil and 22 percent can run on more than one fuel, according to the grid agency.

Voluntary demand management and interruptible programs can reduce load by more than 2,700 MW, the agency said in an earlier report.

(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady and Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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