Xcel customers asked to conserve power until 8 p.m.

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Xcel energy are advising customer to turn off their air conditioning or increase the thermostat setting to 85 degrees, slowly lowering the setting after 8 p.m. to a more comfortable setting. This does not apply to customers who depend on air conditioning for health reasons.

Xcel Energy officials are hopeful that today’s energy alert is an isolated incident.

The power company, with customers in west Texas and eastern New Mexico, has issued a call to conserve energy as much as possible until 8 p.m.

The impetus was a combination of high usage due to continuing high temperatures, and failures along the utility’s power system.

“We’re still holding our own,” Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves said early this afternoon. “We haven’t done anything in terms of controlled outage.”

A later release from Reeves said affected units had either come back online or were in the process of hitting the line, but customers were still asked to conserve power because energy demand was high.

With equipment working properly, the utility had been able to handle an abnormal amount of high-demand days. In fact, Reeves said, Xcel’s 2010 peak demand day was 5,775 megawatts — a mark that’s been topped more than three dozen times in 2011.

“Until the temperatures outside begin to moderate, we’re still going to be in a conservation mode, and really have been all summer,” Reeves said.

Normally, Xcel could handle equipment failures by drawing power from other utility companies. But those utilities are having the same weather, Reeves said, so they’re nearly tapped out.

“We generally like to start (routine maintenance) in September and October. We may have to delay that if these high temperatures persist. We’re demanding a lot of this equipment, and there are going to be failures from time to time.”

During the alert, customers are asked to put off household and work chores involving electricity until after 8 p.m. and turn off unnecessary electronic equipment and lighting.

Suggestions included turning thermostats up to 85 degrees, if possible, and saving laundry for the evening to spread out the energy demand.