Monday, September 11, 2017 by Ethan Huff
A prolonged heat wave that continues to hover over much of the West Coast of the United States is causing record temperature swells throughout California, putting major strain on the Golden State’s power grid. Recent reports suggest that if California residents don’t start cutting back on their energy usage, the power grid could reach critical failure in the coming days.
That’s why California energy officials are urging people throughout the state to bear through the heat as much as they can while using their air conditioners as minimally as possible. The California Independent System Operator, which oversees roughly 80 percent of the state’s electrical grid, has issued a statewide alert about energy conservation that urges Californians to be aware of their energy usage habits and to cut back wherever possible to keep the grid from becoming overloaded.
“Consumers are urged to conserve electricity especially during the afternoon when air conditioners typically are at peak use,” the alert states. “Consumers can help avoid power interruptions by turning off all unnecessary lights, using major appliances before 1 p.m. and after 10 p.m., and setting air conditioners to 78 degrees or higher.”
California ISO also recommends that Californians try to use fans as much as possible and to close their shades and/or drapes during the peak heat of the day. Turning lights and appliances off during these hours is also being advised, as the best times of the day to economize energy usage are during the early morning and late evening when demand is lower.
Things seem to be especially bad in Southern California, where a “dangerous” heat wave is persisting unabated. The National Weather Service (NWS) is urging residents to take precaution and be aware of the risks involved. Besides energy shortages, forest fires are a major concern, including in Los Angeles where the worst area wildfire in recorded history continues to cause problems.
Reports indicate that more than 7,000 acres of La Tuna Canyon have already been burned which, combined with ongoing strong winds, isn’t looking too promising for full containment anytime in the near future. However, as of this writing, officials say the fires in La Tuna Canyon are about 90 percent contained. At the same time, local residents are being encouraged to conserve not only electric energy but also natural gas, which officials say could reach short supply.
Despite these warnings, there have been reports of localized power outages in certain areas of Los Angeles County. One report explained that some 9,300 customers went without power as Southern California Edison, the local energy provider, worked hard to restore service throughout the region.
“It is a result of high overnight temperatures, high level of air conditioning use and just overall demand on the system,” stated Robert Villegas from the energy utility to reporters. “Here in Southern California, we have 5 million customers, so a little tiny bit of conservation from each of those customers really adds up and can really help shape the peak demand.”
This is hardly the first time that Californians have had to be frugal with their energy usage. Back in 2012, California ISO issued a similar flex alert about conserving energy as high temperatures at that time placed an immense burden on the energy utility systems to keep up with demand.
During this particular heat wave, temperatures were exceptionally high even along the coastline, which in California is typically blanketed in cool breezes throughout the summer months. That year was different, though, as excess heat pushed to the limits the capacity of California’s energy grid.
Sources for this article include: