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California Grid Faces Biggest Heat Wave Test Since 2020 Outages

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Record heat in the West will pose the biggest test this Labor Day weekend to the California grid since the summer 2020 blackouts as homes and businesses crank up air conditioners while a severe drought drains hydropower supplies.

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(Bloomberg) — Record heat in the West will pose the biggest test this Labor Day weekend to the California grid since the summer 2020 blackouts as homes and businesses crank up air conditioners while a severe drought drains hydropower supplies. 

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Electricity use will build over the next week to top at 48 gigawatts on Monday and Tuesday, which would be the highest demand on the state grid since 2017, according to the California Independent System Operator. The grid operator is projecting a shortfall of contracted reserves — excess supplies kept on hand as backup to prevent blackouts— during the tightest hours starting Sunday through early next week. 

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Owners of transmission lines and power plants have been requested to restrict maintenance during this heat wave and consumers may be asked to conserve to help keep the grid stable, the California ISO said. Demand will exceed the high that California ISO had projected for the summer of 45.5 gigawatts. It’s still short of the 2006 record of nearly 50.5 gigawatts. One gigawatt is enough to power about 750,000 homes in California. 

“This is a manifestation of what CAISO warned folks about back in May, that unless they see voluntary curtailments the grid could become unstable during certain periods of high demand,” said Gary Cunningham, director of market research at risk management firm Tradition Energy. “In this case it is extreme heat that is causing it, but overall weakness in the supply picture are adding to the issue.”



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