CALIFORNIA (NEXSTAR) — Are you ready for summer, California? Ready or not, this year’s triple-digit temperatures aren’t giving up anytime soon. As much of the U.S. grapples with increased power demand amid a heat wave, you may be worried if the AC will be staying on when you need it the most.
Back in May, a group of energy officials told the Los Angeles Times that during peak energy demand, California’s supply could fall short by an amount equivalent to powering about 1.3 million homes this summer — but that’s not a guarantee.
The state saw its first rolling blackouts in 20 years during a heat wave in 2020, according to Associated Press. During peak times, the state’s biggest utility providers cut the power to over 410,000 customers.
“We can’t really ‘expect’ rotating outages because they are a result of many fast-moving components that can’t be predicted long-term,” explained a representative of the California ISO, which directs the flow of power in the state.
Lack of predictability is reflected in California ISO’s final report on the 2020 outages, which attempted to determine the root cause of the blackouts. Ultimately, data found there was no single factor, though three major factors — extreme weather, resources adequacy and planning — were identified. CISO explains it’s worked to make improvements to its operations since then.
But June’s widespread heat wave could make it difficult for systems across the U.S. With other states already strapped for power, it means California won’t be able to depend too much on reserves from its neighbors. California ISO says the state’s power grid is most at-risk of stress when heat sustains for long periods of time in the western U.S.
Pinpointing any specific stretch of days when California may be most susceptible to outages isn’t easy to predict either. California ISO says it’s most concerned about high temperatures when the sun starts setting because that’s when solar energy production stops for the day. Additionally, wildfires can threaten transmission lines. Later in the summer, California ISO says, hydroelectric supplies also dwindle.
Climate change is also highlighted as an accelerant in the California 2022 Energy Reliability and Affordability Briefing from May.
“… Climate change continues to cause unprecedented stress on California’s energy system. It continues to threaten reliability and put Californians at risk of additional outages,” the briefing explains.
So while conditions to come will determine whether blackouts or outages happen, there are things Californians can do to help the grid remain stable. Pacific Gas and Electric Company tells Nexstar there are several ways to keep homes cool without using too much power — or racking up a massive power bill.
- Raising thermostats up to 85 when you’re leaving your home. While at home (and health permitting), keep thermostats at 78 degrees
- Check air filters once a month
- Compare appliances and electronics for efficiency before purchasing
- Sign up for any discount or assistance programs your electric company may offer. Programs may come with complimentary home efficiency services
Your energy bill
CPUC data shows California energy customers of the three major power companies currently pay an average of $162 per month. The energy bill average in 2019 was $116.
California energy bills are projected to average around $197 by 2025.
California’s energy officials urge that they’re working to prepare for upcoming weather challenges, which are exacerbated by climate change.