U.S. demand for electricity reached an all-time record last week amid a punishing national heat wave as U.S. utilities delivered 96,314 GWh of electricity for the week ending July 22, surpassing by more than 1% last year’s record of 95,259 GWh (set during the week ending July 23, 2005), according to the Edison Electric Institute’s weekly survey of electric demand.

Individual utilities and regional grid operators saw their own records shatter as well, and from coast to coast, utilities are scrambling to satisfy the demand for power as searing temperatures continue to blanket much of the country, said EEI President Tom Kuhn.

“The nation’s electric energy infrastructure was tested severely last week and, with isolated exceptions, the lights and air conditioners stayed on,” Kuhn said. “However, there is never time for complacency in our industry, and we are acutely sensitive to the plight and discomfort of those customers who were, or still are, without electricity.”

Kuhn said utilities are working around the clock to keep pace with the burgeoning demand for electricity and he praised the emergency workers who poured into the St. Louis area after it was hit by heat and a devastating storm that caused a widespread power outage.

“We live in a time when electricity is perhaps our most crucial commodity, and Americans’ appetite for it seems to have no limit,” said Kuhn, pointing to ever-larger homes and profusion of electrotechnologies and gadgets that are in part driving the record demand.

Echoing the many calls for conservation from utilities and grid operators, Kuhn underscored the importance of using electricity wisely during the summertime heat, citing the industry’s commitment to empower customers to save electricity and manage their own energy use.

“Electric utilities are keenly aware of the vital role of conservation and energy efficiency in maintaining power grid stability during periods of peak demand,” said Kuhn, adding that nearly 750 billion kWh have been saved during the past 15 years because of industry efficiency programs—enough to power nearly 70 million homes for one year.

To further reinforce the future reliability of the nation’s power grids, Kuhn said utilities are significantly increasing investment in high-voltage power transmission lines as well as local distribution infrastructure that carries power into homes and businesses. Nationally, utilities will spend about $6 billion this year for transmission infrastructure and about $14 billion to maintain and upgrade local distribution systems, Kuhn said, adding that additional power plants are also under construction to help meet demand.

“Our industry takes this mission very seriously, and we are proud of our reliability record,” Kuhn said. “But we recognize that there is always room for improvement. Reinforcing the nation’s power grid is an evolutionary process, and we are deeply committed to getting the job done.”

Kuhn said part of the process is implementing the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which includes creation and enforcement of mandatory reliability standards binding on all electricity providers. Just last week, federal energy regulators certified the North American Electric Reliability Council as the agency responsible for developing and enforcing those standards, which “will further reinforce the reliability of our electric system,” Kuhn said.

EEI’s “Weekly Electric Output” survey, the only comprehensive report of its kind in the U.S., has been measuring electricity demand for more than 70 years and is available to EEI members and other subscribers. To learn more, visit www.eei.org.