Power companies, regulators prepare for spike in usage due to heat

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The California Independent System Operator is the traffic cop for power in the state. 

At its headquarters in Folsom, it directs the flow of electricity through an open-market system, getting power from where there is surplus to where there’s a need. 

During a heatwave, there may not be enough to go around the state. That’s why officials have been keeping an eye on weather reports. 

On Thursday, the agency issued a plea for residents to lower electric use beginning Friday afternoon.

“Possibly doing your laundry or your dishes, running large appliances either before 3 p.m. or after 10 p.m.,” Cal ISO spokeswoman Anne Gonzales said. 

That includes turning up your thermostat, shutting lights and black out windows. 

Every little bit helps because the consequences can be big. 

“What we’re talking about is planned power disruptions that would be rotated throughout the communities and throughout the neighborhoods,” Gonzales told FOX40. 

Customer-owned utility SMUD is also asking its customers to lower electricity use during its peak periods of 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. But they’re asking for a different reason: to save money. 

The early evening peak is when customers are charged more for power because cost is tied to demand when it comes to energy markets. 

SMUD says it planned ahead for the heatwave and customers won’t see brownouts or blackouts. But it says it would rather not pay more for dirty power during those peak periods. 

“Not use plants that generate electricity using fossil fuels. We want to not buy extra power that would also count on plants like that,” said SMUD spokesperson Chris Capra. 

It recommends cooling homes prior to 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., which works best for newer homes. 

“They likely will retain a lot of that cool air until the 8 o’clock period and then turn the air back on,” Capra explained. 

And SMUD will be one alert the next week or so. 

“We’re all hands on deck. We have extra line crews that can go out and handle any fuse-related outages and things like that happen from over-demand on the distribution system,” Capra said. 

Power operators realize that there will be more electricity use because people are working and attending school at home during the day. 

There’s also a concern that hot evening temperatures during an extended heatwave won’t allow buildings to cool down in the evening. 

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