Heat Wave Will Stress California Electric Grid

By: Aaron C. Davis, AP
By: Aaron C. Davis, AP

Electricity demand in California surged past forecasts Tuesday, setting a new peak for the summer and prompting calls for conservation as a heat wave was expected to push demand near all-time record highs on Wednesday and Thursday.

"We set a new peak today and we'll blow through that record pretty quick tomorrow," said Gregg Fishman, spokesman for Cal-ISO, which manages most of the state's electricity grid. "We know it's going to be hot, the question is how hot and how much of the state's coastal population centers will be hit."

Demand peaked on Tuesday afternoon at 45,888 megawatts - nearly
1,000 megawatts higher than expected.

But state officials are hoping that, with calls for conservation, Wednesday's predicted peak demand of 47,275 megawatts and Thursday's forecast for 47,667 megawatts will not creep higher than anticipated.

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

On Wednesday, electricity will be in scarce supply because temperatures will be hot simultaneously in the northern and southern parts of the state.

Temperatures in the Los Angeles area will range from 95 to 100 degrees, and the San Francisco Bay area also will experience above-average temperatures. San Jose will hit 94 and the high in Oakland will reach 85, according to National Weather Service forecasts.

The mercury will top 100 degrees throughout the Central Valley and reach 112 in Palm Springs.

Fishman said high temperatures throughout Arizona, New Mexico and much of the West will complicate the state's efforts to pull in enough energy to meet the demand.

"We're shopping around the West for some additional resources to maximize supply, but many of those are going to be needed locally," he said.

The California ISO has declared Wednesday and Thursday "Flex Alert Days," and is urging residents to conserve electricity, especially during the peak hours of 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

While reducing air conditioning use is one way to conserve energy, the ISO 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; cool with fans; turn off unnecessary lights and use big appliances in the early morning or late at night.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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