MECO reports highest energy demand in decade amid heat wave More fans running, air conditioning, low wind may contribute

In the middle of a spring and summer heat wave that’s broken 52 records so far, Maui Electric Co. is experiencing the highest energy demand in more than a decade, with July producing the biggest demand so far this year.

KEHAULANI CERIZO kcerizo@mauinews.com

“On Maui this summer, we’ve been seeing record energy demand peaks — or when the island is using the most electricity at any given time,” MECO spokeswoman Shayna Decker told The Maui News.

Energy peaks have been climbing each month since spring. In March, the peak day logged 177.8 megawatts; April, 180.4 MW; May, 194.2 MW; June, 200.5 MW; and July, 205.1 MW, MECO said. (The highest peak so far this year occurred at 7:55 p.m. July 8). Energy demands usually peak during the evenings between 5 and 9 p.m.

“These are the highest peaks we have seen for Maui in their respective months in over a decade,”Decker said.

The heat wave began in April, when eight record-breaking days occurred in the Kahului area, according to National Weather Service data. In May, 13 records were broken, with 11 consecutive days reaching all-time highs. June set the most records so far, with 18 new highs. July has clocked 13 new records to date.

Power poles get some work done earlier this year in Kihei. Maui Electric Co. reported last week that spring and summer energy demand has reached highest peaks in 10 years, possibly due to heat wave conditions. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

For Kahului, the record highs were 87 degrees on April 5 and 9; and 96 degrees on May 22. All records in April ranged between 87 and 90 degrees; May, 91 to 96 degrees; June, 91 to 95; and July, 91 to 94, National Weather Service reports showed.

Decker hypothesized that higher energy demand could be due to air conditioners or fans turned up higher and left on longer.

“The peaks are higher — perhaps as more air conditioners or fans are being cranked up and left on for longer,” she said. “Maybe a household has more guests visiting or kids back from school during the summer — which results in more overall electricity usage.”

Some nights, MECO power generators must kick into high gear because wind energy isn’t being produced.

“On particular hot, humid nights, there’s also low to no wind energy and no solar energy resources to use on the system, so the island’s generators are running more and for longer periods of time,” she said.

In general, MECO says that evenings have higher energy demands because people come home from work or school and use more electricity with cooking dinner, watching TV, taking showers and running appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines.

The electric company recommends ways to maintain a cool home, such as:

• Run ceiling fans instead of air conditioners, which could save more than $72 per month based on eight-hour usage days.

• Replace incandescent light bulbs with cool, efficient compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode bulbs. These use 75 percent less energy, last longer and produce less heat.

• Hang awnings, blinds or install tinting film on south- and west-facing windows to block afternoon sun. Solar window film or tint can reflect 80 percent or more of incoming heat.

• Install medium-colored curtains with white-plastic backings to reduce heat gains from the sun by 33 percent.

• Invest in a solar-powered attic fan to draw out hot air and reduce attic temperatures.

• Use ridge and eave vents to increase attic ventilation.

• Install insulation in the attic to keep heat from transferring to living areas.

• Employ light-colored roof material and exterior surfaces.

Additional information on cool tips for the home and office can be found at www.mauielectric.com/cooltips.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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