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California warns of power outages during record heat wave

A severe heatwave has pushed California’s electricity demand to a record high, prompting the state’s governor to extend emergency actions through the weekend to reduce electricity consumption and bring more power online.

Gavin Newsom said the heatwave was on track to set a record in September, straining the energy grid and increasing the risk of power outages.

“We’re headed for the worst part of this heatwave and the risk of blackouts is real,” he said, advising residents to “cool down” their homes early in the day when more power is available and turn on the thermostat after 4pm to reduce the load. during the evening peak time.

Operator California Independent Systems (Caiso), which coordinates electricity across most of the state, forecast electricity usage of more than 52,000 megawatts Tuesday afternoon, a new all-time high.

When the system was under intense stress, the grid operator set the state to the highest alert level, prompting Pacific Gas and Electric, the San Francisco-based utility, to warn about 525,000 customers to be prepared. be subject to a power outage.

Caiso says it eventually avoided a power outage. “Conservation is making a difference,” the operator said in a tweet.

The warning is increasingly turning into a heatwave that is scorching much of the western United States. Temperatures hit 43 degrees Celsius in inland California on Tuesday and are set to break records in many locations before tapering off over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

California In earlier days, a second blackout in two years could have been avoided through early evening conservation, when air conditioning usage typically increases and supplies drop as the sun sets. reduce output from the state’s vast solar industry.

Caiso says customers can limit their electricity use between 4pm and 9pm by adjusting thermostats, turning off lights they don’t need, avoiding appliances and not charging electric vehicles. Utilities in neighboring states, such as NV Energy, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway in Nevada, have made similar requests.

The situation shows how the increasing frequency of extreme heat is affecting even the wealthiest regions of the world. At $3.4 billion in 2021, California’s economy is the largest in the US and outstrips countries including the UK, India and France.

California is also at the forefront of the transition to a lower-carbon energy system that relies heavily on electricity. The state enacted rules to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035 last month and has passed a law to extend the life of California’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon 2,240MW, as a stable source of zero-carbon energy.

Extreme heat eventually led to complete power failure in the state in August 2020 – for the first time in 20 years – after the power grid was pushed to the brink by what officials called a “1 in 30-year weather event”.

One report then blamed those blackouts on a combination of climate change, inadequate planning during the state’s intermittent transition to wind and solar power and problems in the market. energy business school.

Newsom says that while the state has taken steps to address the issues, including adding an additional 4,000 MW to the grid and developing emergency measures, this year’s crisis has deepened. more important due to drought conditions limiting the availability of hydroelectric power, as well as the length of the current heat wave.

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