Conservation credited with thwarting California energy crunch
SACRAMENTO (AP) California residents and businesses heeded warnings of an electricity shortage on Thursday, turning off lights, air conditioners and machinery to help the state weather an energy crunch caused by soaring temperatures and high demand.Earlier in the day, the state’s largest energy consumers were notified that they might have to go dark to help prevent blackouts.”Residents really responded and we want to thank them,” said Stephanie McCorkle, spokeswoman for California’s Independent System Operator. “The conservation we saw today from Californians saved the equivalent of a large power plant.”The mandatory interruptions at industrial, commercial and retail businesses were not needed. Energy demand peaked at more than 1,200 megawatts below forecasts, after it appeared earlier in the day as if use might approach the state’s all-time record.Despite Thursday’s reprieve, triple digit temperatures and high energy demand caused localized failures. Demand overloaded a distribution station in the Sun Valley area of the San Fernando Valley, triggering a rolling outage affecting about 2,000 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers. Throughout Los Angeles, a total of 3,500 residents lost power, spokeswoman Gale Harris said.Early Thursday, the California Independent System Operator, the agency that manages most of the state’s electric grid, warned of potential trouble in the state’s power supply. It said it planned to declare a minor power emergency at 2 p.m. and increase its alert level to a so-called Stage 2 emergency at about 4 p.m., the hottest point in the day when electricity use soars.Neither alert was necessary, as the state’s largest electricity consumers voluntarily cut their use. The state’s power consumption peaked at 47,843 megawatts, well below the predicted peak of 49,105 megawatts.Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokeswoman Jennifer Ramp said the utility asked 2,200 large customers with which it has standing conservation agreements to reduce energy use voluntarily. Those reductions saved 600 megawatts, she said.McCorkle said the Independent System Operator took the rare step of holding a conference call with the state’s largest energy users and asked them to initiate voluntary reductions in power use. Those combined efforts appeared to work.The state never came close to the worrisome Stage 2 emergency, which signals that its operating reserves have fallen below 5 percent. At that point, the state’s largest investor-owned utilities begin cutting power to companies that have previously agreed to be the first to lose power.The agency extended its statewide energy warning into Friday, marking a fourth consecutive day in which it projected high demand and urged conservation efforts.The state suggests setting thermostats at 78 degrees or higher, using fans to cool rooms, turning off unnecessary lights and restricting the use of appliances to early in the morning or late at night.Those whose health could be compromised should not put themselves at risk by shutting off air conditioning, officials say.The state also has opened cooling centers at fairgrounds in eight Central Valley and Southern California counties. They will stay open until Tuesday.Most of California’s vast Central Valley is expected to have temperatures well over 100 degrees, with parts of the Los Angeles region also forecast to hit 100. Much of the San Francisco Bay area also is expected to be warmer than normal.The state has established a toll-free telephone number to provide information about cooling centers, 1-877-435-7021.___On the Net: http://www.caiso.com
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