2013: A CRITICAL SUMMER

heat wave

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
    • Extreme weather
    • Potential for heat storms lasting several days
  • Recent closure of the San Onofre Nuclear plant
    • Especially critical for San Diego County residents
  • Intensified drought which could lead to:
    • Reduced generation from hydro-stations
    • Wildfires which would force power lines out of service
  • Increased electricity use as economy recovers

Consequences

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.

Solutions

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.

Additional Background

Reduced Generating Capacity

Southern California Edison recently announced its decision to permanently close the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Facility, located in San Diego County. The facility previously supplied enough energy to power 1.4 million homes equivalent to over 2.2 gigawatts of energy. This demand will now need to be met by other energy sources, some of which emit more greenhouse gases. Conservation is a critical tool to draw down the need to supply energy from these sources and to prevent power shortages.

Transmission Disruptions

Hot, dry conditions have already led to wildfire in Southern California and the potential for continuing wildfires is particularly high this summer. Persistent drought has led to an above-normal wildfire risk and may also increase the severity of fires that do occur. Wildfires can damage major transmission lines leading to power shortages and blackouts.