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California Avoids Power Outages, Conservation Still Needed Amid Record Heatwaves

Published: September 7, 2022
A view of windmills and power lines, as California's grid operator urged the state's 40 million people to ratchet down the use of electricity in homes and businesses as a wave of extreme heat settled over much of the state, near Tracy, California, on August 17, 2022. (Image: via REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo)

California’s grid operator urged consumers to conserve energy for an eighth straight day on Wednesday, Sept. 7, but the state avoided rotating power outages as it grappled with a heat wave blanketing the drought-stricken region.

Power prices soared to a two-year high on Sept. 6 and demand hit an all-time record as homes and businesses cranked up air conditioners to escape the heat. The state’s grid operator has been primarily concerned with the evening hours, when the sun sets and solar power is no longer available.

California’s weeklong run of record-breaking temperatures will continue this week with highs reaching the 110s Fahrenheit (mid-40s Celsius) in interior parts of the state, according to the National Weather Service.

The California Independent System Operator (ISO), grid operator for most of the state, canceled its warning for possible rotating outages on Sept. 6, with no outages needed.

The ISO, however, continued to urge consumers to conserve energy for an eighth consecutive day on Wednesday evening when the sun goes down and solar power stops working. Solar provided about a third of the grid’s electricity in the middle of the day on Sept. 6, but nothing at night.

“Consumer conservation played a big part in protecting electric grid reliability,” the ISO said in a tweet.

The last time the ISO ordered utilities to shed power was for two days in August 2020 when outages affecting about 800,000 homes and businesses lasted anywhere from 15 minutes to about 2-1/2 hours.

California’s biggest utilities are PG&E Corp’s Pacific Gas and Electric, Edison International’s Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas and Electric.

The ISO said power demand hit a preliminary 52,061 megawatts (MW) on Sept. 6, breaking the prior all-time high of 50,270 MW in 2006. The ISO projected usage would peak at 51,182 MW on Sept. 7 and 49,977 MW on Sept. 8.

Power prices at the Palo Verde hub in Arizona and SP-15 in Southern California rose to $1,000 and $550 per megawatt hour, respectively. That was their highest for a second consecutive day since hitting record highs of $1,311 in Palo Verde and $698 in SP-15 in August 2020 when the ISO last imposed rotating outages.

(By Reuters. Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)