This summer California will be at critical risk for rolling blackouts and power shortages. While California has been highly successful in curbing energy demand during peak (high-usage) hours in the past, this summer’s conditions may demand more serious attention than those in previous years. Reasons include:
- Approaching heat:
- Hot, often humid days which will increase A/C demand
- Potential for heat storms lasting several days
- Recent generation halt at the San Onofre Nuclear plant leading to reduced generating capacity
- Especially critical for San Diego County residents
- Low winter rainfall and increased risk of wildfires which would force power lines out of service
- Increased electricity use as economy recovers
This summer’s energy challenges could put many Californians at risk. When electricity availability declines, so does access to A/C and other amenities that are critical to some. During the July 2006 heat wave, heat-related deaths topped 130. Elderly individuals or those with medical ailments are particularly vulnerable to high-heat days, especially during blackouts when air conditioning becomes unavailable.
Power shortages also affect the environment. When power systems are strained utilities must run "peaker plants," the dirtiest of power plants, to meet demand. This causes increased pollution and degraded air quality.
It is especially important that we work together to conserve energy this summer. In the past, California's residents and businesses have done their part to reduce their power consumption during times of especially high peak demand. This summer, businesses and individuals will need to continue to lead in energy conservation, shutting off major appliances and reducing A/C use during peak hours. Join Californians around the state to stay alert and power down.
Reduced Generating Capacity
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Facility, located in San Diego County and operated by Southern California Edison, has a generating capacity of over 2300 megawatts. However, due to premature wear on tubes in both of the plant's steam reactors, the plant is scheduled to remain inactive for the duration of this year's summer.
Due to the low amount of rainfall this past winter, potential for wildfires is particularly high this summer. Since there have been few large wildfires in the last several years, there is more existing vegetation to dry out in the summer heat. This will increase the severity of naturally occurring wildfires, making them more likely to damage major transmission lines.