Southern California’s heat wave has strained the statewide electrical grid and while Santa Monica has been spared triple digit heat, officials said local residents should still do their part to ease the burden on the power system.
The heat and associated weather has strained the Southern California power supply for the past week.
Colton, a city of 53,000 about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, widely lost power Thursday morning after lightning struck the city’s main electrical substation. In Los Angeles, the Department of Water and Power said crews fully restored power to 11,000 customers in Boyle Heights last week and another 800 customers were without electricity elsewhere in the county. The number of LA customers impacted peaked at 14,000 overnight and forecasters said high pressure causing the heat wave might have peaked but torrid conditions could continue into next week.
Managers of California’s power grid asked for voluntary electricity conservation Friday as forecasters predicted more extreme heat statewide.
Southern California has also had lightning, thunder, downpours and localized street flooding fed by monsoonal moisture.
The California Independent System Operator predicted demand on the system would set a record higher than the 50,270 megawatts on July 24, 2006. Consumers were asked to cut back on use of electricity between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. when use of air conditioners is at its peak.
Officials said everyone should be concerned about blackouts when the electrical system is under stress.
“All of the areas in the State are interconnected and the power is flowing in all areas of the State. No matter where its coming from and no matter who’s using it, every point in the system is connected to every other point in the system,” said Robert Villegas, Spokesperson for Sothern California Edison.
He said the sheer size of the region makes it susceptible to supply problems.
“The reality is the LA basin is a major demand center,” he said. “We could be impacted in the greater LA area, whether or not we are consuming a lot and whether or not it’s super hot here.”
Villegas said the problem isn’t necessarily the objective temperature but rather if the population is adapted to the heat. He said temperatures in the high 80’s might not be considered dangerous but it can still burden the grid.
“What we do see, is we do see an increase in air conditioning use, even in more temperate areas,” he said. “It’s not the dramatic rise in temps, it may be on the coast it’s cooler, but the use of air conditioning increases because it is hotter than people are accustomed to seeing. It makes it uncomfortable for people, demand does spike. It’s all relative in terms of how people use its air conditioning in terms of how people use their homes.”
Even if there’s enough supply to meet the increased demand, increased use can overload infrastructure and cause equipment related blackouts. Adhering to voluntary usage restrictions can be the best defense against a local loss of power.
“It can help with the extra stress that the local equipment is facing,” said Villegas “It can prevent outages at the local, at the circuit level.”
When the California Independent System Operator, a coalition of local power providers, issues a Flex Alert as they did on Tuesday, they ask customers to make three adjustments. Turn off unnecessary lights, postpone appliance use until after 9 p.m. and set air conditioning to 78 or higher. They recommend using a fan with the higher air conditioning level to keep cool.
Villegas said the solution to power problems is simple, just use less.
“Its overuse of the system that does cause many of the problems,” he said.
The Associated Press Contributed to this story