California faces power outage risks over Labor Day holiday


Officials warn of the worst of the heat wave to come – and call for energy conservation.

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(Bloomberg) – California officials have warned that the worst of a prolonged heat wave will strain the state’s power grid over the Labor Day long weekend, increasing the risk of blackouts amid forecast record temperatures.

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The state grid operator is urging residents to reduce energy use during the hottest times of the day, when thermostats in parts of the Central Valley are expected to reach highs of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) in the middle of next week. . The oppressive heat will push demand for electricity to its highest level in years. Demand peaked at 47,357 megawatts on Thursday, the highest since September 2017, network officials said.

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The California independent system operator issued another network emergency watch on Saturday, saying power shortages are expected between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday. The grid operator, which had already called on homes and businesses to reduce their power on Saturday afternoon and early evening, urged residents to continue saving power at the same times on Sunday.

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“The last few days will likely be a dress rehearsal for what is going to be a much more stressed set of conditions as we enter the thick of the weekend,” Caiso chief executive Elliot Mainzer said during a briefing on Saturday. morning before the last preservation notice was published. “We really appreciate the efforts of consumers so far, we will ask for more, it will be a sustained effort.”

The threat of outages underscores the growing vulnerability of the power grid as climate change disrupts weather patterns amid the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. California is experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 years, undermining hydroelectric generation.

At the same time, old gas-fired power plants have closed faster than solar, wind and battery installations can replace them. Earlier this week, California lawmakers almost unanimously approved a bill to extend the life of the state’s only remaining nuclear power plant by five years as protection against blackouts.

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The extreme heat has already destroyed a number of generator sets this week, Caiso said in a statement Friday. Network operators also expressed concern about two major wildfires threatening transmission lines and power plants near Los Angeles and San Diego. On Saturday, Mainzer said Caiso was monitoring the latest fire conditions, including a new wildfire outside of Weed in northern California that started on Friday.

“We will be keeping a close eye on these fire conditions,” Mainzer said. “They have the potential to impact the bulk power system, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the generation fleet in California is as strong as possible.”

(Updates with the network operator issuing an emergency watch for Sunday in the third paragraph.)

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