California is carrying out rolling blackouts to deal with soaring electricity demand from extreme and prolonged heat, marking the first time since the 2001 western U.S. energy crisis that the state has resorted to such a measure.
The California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state grid, declared a Stage 3 emergency, triggering the outages, as temperatures soared across the region from Sacramento to Los Angeles and people blasted fans and air conditioners to keep cool. Temperatures were forecast to reach 112 degrees Fahrenheit (44 Celsius) Friday in the San Joaquin Valley. Los Angeles was set to reach 96.
The intense heat is hitting at an especially vulnerable time for the region with the pandemic forcing people to remain at home. It’s the first time the state has declared a Stage 3 emergency since electricity shortages plunged hundreds of thousands in the region into darkness, forced California’s largest electric utility into bankruptcy and sent power prices surging to record levels in 2000 and 2001.
California is joining regions around the world that have been grappling with extreme weather brought on by climate change in recent months. What was forecast as one of the worst heat waves in more than a century gripped parts of Europe in August. The eastern U.S. is just emerging from July temperatures that were expected to topple daily records in Manhattan and Boston dating to the 19th century.
The rolling outages in California comes less than a year after utilities in the region deliberately cut off power to millions of customers in an effort to prevent their power lines from igniting wildfires during unusually strong winds and extremely dry weather.
The state won’t see a respite from the high temperatures until later next week as the National Weather Service forecast a long-duration heat wave starting this weekend. The weather agency posted excessive heat warnings for much of California for Friday through Wednesday.
Further complicating matters, cloud cover from the remnants of tropical storm Elida is expected to crimp output from the state’s solar generators, leading to tighter supplies, the grid operator said in a statement Friday.
Electricity prices have already hit two-year highs as weather forecasters called for extreme temperatures. Natural gas prices in Southern California have more than doubled on the increased need for the fuel for power production, according to report from BloombergNEF.
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