Chance of California power outages up as heat wave worsens

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s probability of power outages will develop within the coming days, as the state prepares to enter probably the most brutal stretch but of an ongoing heat wave, officers mentioned Sunday.

Energy demand is anticipated to outpace provide beginning Monday night, and predictions for Tuesday present the state rivaling its all-time excessive for electrical energy demand, mentioned Elliot Mainzer, president and chief government officer of the California Independent System Operator.

“This is about to get significantly more intense,” Mainzer advised reporters.

The system operator is in cost of managing and sustaining reliability on the electrical grid, a difficult job throughout sizzling climate when vitality demand soars as individuals crank up their air conditioners.

Grid managers have a number of choices out there earlier than power outages, like tapping backup turbines, shopping for extra power from different states and utilizing so-called demand response packages, the place individuals are paid to make use of much less vitality. But maintaining the lights on may also require Californians to proceed conserving as they’ve been, even as temperatures rise.

Most of California’s 39 million individuals are dealing with extraordinarily sizzling climate. Temperatures within the Central Valley are anticipated to be as excessive as 115 levels Fahrenheit (46 levels Celsius) for a number of days. In Los Angeles, in the meantime, temperatures topped 100 levels Fahrenheit (38 levels Celsius), unusually heat temperatures for September.

Energy officers and power firms have been urging individuals since Wednesday to make use of much less power from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. by maintaining air conditioners at 78 levels Fahrenheit (25.5 levels Celsius) or increased and avoiding utilizing main home equipment like ovens and dishwashers. Those so-called flex alerts have allowed the grid operator to maintain the lights on to date.

On Saturday evening, the state used about 44,000 megawatts of electrical energy, Mainzer mentioned. By Tuesday, that is purported to ramp up to greater than 50,000 megawatts, nearing file ranges of vitality use set in 2006. But the state would reasonably curb demand to keep away from that quantity than take a look at the power grid’s functionality to reply.

“Our aim is to ensure that we don’t attain that quantity,” Mainzer said.

During the day, California’s energy grid runs on a mix of mostly solar and natural gas, as well as some imports of power from other states. But solar power begins to fall off during the late afternoon and into the evening, which is the hottest time of day in some parts of the state.

Meanwhile, some of the aging natural gas plants that California relies on for backup power aren’t as reliable in hot weather. As of Sunday afternoon, three of the state’s coastal power plants were experiencing partial outages, though they make up just a small fraction of the state’s supply, officials said.

At the same time, some hydropower resources are limited due to drought. Dry conditions and heat are hitting California as the state heads into what traditionally is the worst of the fire season, with large fires already burning and turning deadly. Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Several hundred thousand Californians lost power in rolling blackouts in August 2020 amid hot weather. The state avoided a similar scenario last summer. Newsom on Friday signed legislation potentially allowing the state’s last remaining nuclear plant to stay open beyond its planned 2025 closure in order to ensure more power for the energy grid.

On Sunday night, nuclear power accounted for about 5% of California’s vitality provide.

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