Xcel Energy said it set a new record for demand in Minnesota and three neighboring states on Monday as temperatures hit the high 90s in the region.

The state's largest utility also reported thousands of power outages, usually lasting a few hours or less, as distribution lines failed and fuses on its system blew out, said spokesman Tom Hoen.

"It is not that there is not enough supply," Hoen said. "It's from the demand and stress being put on the system."

The utility expects high power demand today and Wednesday because the heat wave is predicted to continue.

Hoen said Monday's demand was 9,500 megawatts in Xcel's service region in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The previous record was set last Aug. 9 at 9,100 megawatts (MW). By comparison, Xcel's largest power generation station -- the three coal-fired Sherco units near Becker, Minn. -- puts out a total of 2,400 MW.

At the worst Monday, more than 8,000 customers lost power, but that was down to 1,700 on Tuesday morning, Hoen said. No transmission lines have been affected, he added.

Xcel on Monday activated remote-controlled power-saving switches on air conditioning units of residential customers who signed up for the conservation program. Hoen said the conservation step, which cycles off customers' air conditioning condensers, was activated for about an hour.

David Shaffer •673-7090