California issues power alert as heat stresses electric grid |

California issues power alert as heat stresses electric grid

SACRAMENTO (AP) ” California’s electricity grid manager declared a minor power emergency Wednesday as the state’s operating energy reserve dipped below 7 percent.

The declaration of the Stage 1 emergency is the least worrisome of three steps preceding rolling blackouts, in which power is cut to certain regions to avoid a systemwide crash. The announcement triggered conservation efforts by state agencies and a general call for California’s 37 million residents to turn down air conditioners and restrict the use of heavy appliances during hot afternoon hours.

For a second straight day, energy demand surged 1,000 megawatts above forecasts, according to the California Independent System Operator. If that trend continues Thursday, California would set a new all-time record for energy demand and come close to using all the available electricity resources that are forecast for the state.

“We’re tapping our operating reserves and we are stepping up our calls for conservation, but we are still a long way from a Stage 3 alert and blackouts,” said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the independent system operator.

The agency manages the flow of power over lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric Co., the state’s largest investor-owned utilities.

The power grid manager declared the alert at 3:19 p.m. Wednesday as peak energy demand was beginning to soar. It surpassed forecasts before 5 p.m., hitting 48,538 megawatts.

The alert was called off at 5:30 p.m. as the energy demand lessened faster than expected, according to the ISO.

However, peak demand for Thursday is expected to be 49,572 megawatts, but McCorkle said that could be revised upward based on the trend of the past two days.

California’s all-time record energy demand of 50,270 megawatts was set last July during a two-week heat wave blamed for hundreds of deaths.

Electricity is in scarce supply this week because temperatures are high simultaneously in the northern and southern parts of the state, as well as throughout the West.

Temperatures were expected to reach 108 Thursday in Fresno and 103 in Sacramento, while ranging from 87 to 100 degrees in the Los Angeles area. The San Francisco Bay area also was forecast to have above-average temperatures.

The state Office of Emergency Services opened cooling centers at fairgrounds in eight Central Valley and Southern California counties. The state Department of Public Health also issued heat alerts to nursing care facilities.

“We want to make sure everything is being done to protect the most vulnerable,” said Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for the emergency services department.

High temperatures throughout Arizona, New Mexico and much of the West also are complicating the state’s efforts to pull in energy.

Reducing air conditioning use is one way to conserve energy, but the Independent System Operator says people whose health could be compromised should not put themselves at risk.

Among the tips the agency suggests: set thermostats at 78 degrees or higher; use fans to cool rooms; turn off unnecessary lights; and use large appliances in the early morning or late at night.

The state also established a toll-free telephone number to provide information about cooling centers, 1-877-435-7021.


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