FROM CANADIAN PRESS
As temperatures in the low 30 C range and severe humidity continued to gang up on Ontario residents, the province's power grid was being taxed to the limit once again as consumers cranked up their air conditioners to battle the sweltering heat.
The Independent Electricity System Operator, the agency that monitors the power system, said today's situation was exacerbated by the fact three generating units were out of service, unable to generate their usual 2,500 megawatts of power.
Peak demand was expected to reach nearly 26,000 megawatts, not far from the record mark reached earlier this summer, said spokesman Terry Young.
"It's a very tight situation," Young said. Generating capacity and the province's ability to import power were near their peak levels, he added.
The province's residents and businesses have been asked to cut back on their consumption for a total of 12 days so far this summer.
The new conservation campaign is intended to tackle businesses that waste energy.
The Conservation Council of Ontario estimates that 200 megawatts of energy are lost when just 10 per cent of the province's 100,000 stores keep their doors open with the air conditioning on — "a blatant waste of electricity," said executive director Chris Winter.
"It's a very simple act, but this act alone can save up to 200 megawatts of electricity," Winter said. "It could be the difference between brownouts or not."
Twice last week, brutal heat and humidity forced the IESO to impose brownouts, in which voltage is reduced by five per cent — a tactic that allows power authorities to ease consumption without dramatically impacting supply.
Though brownouts are designed not to impact consumers, problems were reported with traffic lights and hospital air conditioning systems in some parts of the province. Hospitals and other facilities needing full power are able to apply for local exemptions.
With an overall system capacity of about 26,000 megawatts, 200 megawatts makes a significant difference, said Peter Love, Ontario's chief energy conservation officer, who's been on the job since mid-May.
"This is the type of campaign that's really needed right now," said Love, who said he's been getting lots of complaints about stores keeping their doors open from citizens who are doing their best to conserve at home.
Participating businesses would get a poster to put on their door to invite customers in and let them know the door is being kept closed to save power. The campaign also pushes shoppers to patronize stores heeding the call to conserve.
The manager of a furniture store just steps away from the Chinatown location where the news conference was held, however, didn't appear convinced today that closing his doors to customers would be a good idea.
"If I close the door, people won't come into my store," Bing Wong said. "I would definitely lose business."
The majority of stores in the area, which was bustling today with shoppers, had their doors wide open in hopes of luring in passersby with the promise of cool air and low prices.
Winter acknowledged that it won't be easy for some stores to change their practices due to habit or belief that their business will suffer. Putting in regulations to force businesses to change their ways isn't the best approach, he added.
"We want to start with as much as we can through voluntary measures," Winter said. "It's always better to have people do it because it's part of our culture, part of our values."