Con Edison points to record energy consumption to explain shutdown

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Throughout the weekend, Con Edison officials had assured its customers that the power grid would hold. Then, around 7 p.m. on Sunday, as demand for electricity increased, the utility system was stressed in ways it had rarely been on a weekend.

Grid load set a weekend record: 12,063 megawatts.

The biggest problem, officials said, occurred in southeast Brooklyn, in and near the neighborhoods of Canarsie, Mill Basin, Flatlands and Bergen Beach.

Three of the 19 cables that come out of a substation to supply electricity to homes and businesses in the area have failed. Then, in the space of about 10 minutes, a fourth and then a fifth failed, said Tim Cawley, the president of Con Edison, in an interview.

That left 14 cables to handle a heavier than normal flow of electricity, leaving system operators worried that the region’s entire grid could fail, Mr Cawley said.

Con Edison officials decided they had no choice but to take the drastic step of temporarily cutting off power to around 33,000 customers, Mr Cawley said. If the utility hadn’t shut off the electricity, he saidthe blackout could have spread over a wider geographic area and lasted longer.

“These customers were at the end of failing feeders and were served by them,” Cawley said.

He said he could not explain why so many cables had failed in the Flatbush network, but not in other sections of the network. He insisted that company officials were not performing triage, deciding to cut power in part of the city to spare other neighborhoods.

“We don’t take this decision lightly,” Mr Cawley said.

Neither the inhabitants nor the elected officials. Monday morning, with thousands of customers in Brooklyn still without power, the backlash against Con Edison’s decision was so strong that it even sparked a striking moment of unity between Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, two Democrats who have often been at odds on high-profile issues.

“We’ve been through this with Con Ed time and time again, and they should have been better prepared — period,” Cuomo said in a statement late Sunday.

“I can’t trust them at this point,” Mr. de Blasio said of Con Edison at a press conference on Monday, “because I’m not getting real answers and they’ve yet again let New Yorkers down.”

As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, 5,000 customers in southeast Brooklyn were still without power, but needed to have it restored later that evening, according to Con Edison.

Of the more than three million customers that Con Edison serves in New York and suburban Westchester County, more than 12,000 were without power as strong Thunderstorms battered the area on Monday evening, bringing high winds and heavy rain that flooded many city streets.

The mayor said on Twitter that the city was prepared in case the storm knocked out power to even more residents.

Sunday’s power outage marked the second weekend in a row that parts of the city were plunged into darkness, amplifying outrage among New Yorkers.

The service disruption came at the end of the city’s first heat wave of the year, with temperatures reaching the mid-90s for three consecutive days. Like much of the country, the New York area was placed under an extreme heat advisory over the weekend as a so-called heat dome spread from the central United States. United to the Great Lakes and the East Coast.

The thermometer fell to 80 degrees in New York overnight, and the National Weather Service predicted cooler temperatures at the start of the week, although it warned that temperatures could rise again by the weekend. next end.

“It was obviously a predictable, and therefore preventable, situation,” Mr. de Blasio said, standing outside a command post in Brooklyn that had been set up to help those affected by the power cuts. “What we continually get is no clarity, no answers, no real Con Ed deadlines.”

Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo both said that Con Edison should have been better prepared for the higher-than-usual demand for electricity given the many warnings from meteorologists about the heat.

The city, however, was in good company. Massive power outages occurred in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin, where severe storms and high winds brought down power lines.

In southeast Michigan, where temperatures also topped 90 degrees over the weekend, about 600,000 DTE Energy customers lost power and about 250,000 were still without power Monday morning, the agency said. society.

But with no storms to blame, the blackout in Brooklyn seemed to sting all the more after last weekend’s blackouts on Manhattan’s West Side and in Midtown.

Last Saturday, an equipment failure unexpectedly left part of Manhattan in darkness on another hot weekend evening. More than 70,000 customers were without power for more than three hours.

Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio, who were campaigning last weekend for president in Iowa, had both criticized Con Edison a week ago, with Mr. Cuomo calling for an independent state investigation into the Manhattan breakdown.

The governor went so far as to threaten to have the state Public Service Commission revoke Con Edison’s license as the sole distributor of electricity in substantially all of the city and parts of suburban Westchester County.

While Sunday’s shutdown affected fewer people, it took Con Edison much longer to restore power, and Cuomo called on state investigators to expand their investigation to include the new outages.

In a radio interview Monday, the governor continued to harangue Con Edison.

“They can lose their franchise. We have changed utilities in the past,” Cuomo said. “It’s not easy, but we do a lot of things that are not easy. And, legally, it is possible.

City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, who previously represented parts of Brooklyn affected by the blackouts on City Council, said in a video posted on Twitter Monday morning that he had been told, wrongly, that the power would be restored at midnight.

“There is still no electricity in many areas,” he said. “It’s outrageous. Con Edison, you have so many questions you need to answer.

On Monday, Mr de Blasio also said he felt Con Edison had failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for either of the crashes over the weekend. He echoed Mr. Cuomo’s calls for an investigation and suggested it was time for the city and state to consider a public agency to replace Con Edison, which is a private company.

“At this point, I don’t trust Con Ed,” he said.

Regulators have penalized Con Edison for outages in the past. In 2007, the state Civil Service Commission fined the company $18 million for power outages, including a nine-day outage in western Queens in 2006.

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