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California heat wave brings power conservation call

Posted: August 9, 2012 11:40 a.m.
Updated: August 9, 2012 11:40 a.m.

A volunteer from the Inland Empire Safe Kids Coalition walks by a minivan registering more than 120 degrees Thursday during a hyperthermia demonstration at Henry Elementary School in Rialto.

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Californians sweltering in a lengthening heat wave were urged Thursday to voluntarily reduce power consumption, including air conditioning, through the weekend to maintain electrical reserves and avoid the possibility of involuntary outages.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state’s grid, said a so-called “Flex Alert” would be in effect from Friday through Sunday evening as temperatures climbing into the 100s in the state’s interior regions are compounded by rising humidity.

Cal-ISO also urged immediate conservation during Thursday afternoon’s peak hours to meet a predicted demand of 47,125 megawatts.

Valleys and inland areas have been baking all week under the influence of strong high pressure over the southwestern United States, bringing the summer’s first real test of electrical supplies without the help of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The twin-reactor generating station on the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles has been offline all year since a small leak of radiation from a steam tube led to discovery of more extensive problems.

Electrical demand, particularly from so many air conditioners in operation at the same time, also posed a strain for components of distribution systems such as power lines and transformers.

The call for conservation was echoed by utilities such as Southern California Edison, which serves an area with about 14 million people, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which supplies the nation’s second-largest city.

The “Flex Alert” calls on individuals, businesses and governments to voluntarily cut back on energy use between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to prevent operating reserves from falling to emergency levels. The first stage of California’s three emergency levels is triggered when operating reserves are forecast to fall to between 7 and 6 percent.

“Should the situation worsen for any reason and power reserves drop to dangerous levels, the independent system operator could direct utilities to conduct involuntary rotating outages — for blocks of customers — across their service areas until sufficient reserve levels are achieved,” SoCal Edison said in a statement.

The Los Angeles DWP said Thursday’s energy demand in its territory was predicted to approach 6,000 megawatts, near its all-time demand of 6,177 megawatts.

Excessive-heat warnings were posted for a broad swath of the interior of Southern California and to the north in the San Joaquin Valley.

At the same time, the threat of thunderstorms led to flood advisories for parts of San Bernardino County in the inland region east of Los Angeles.

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