This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

September 19, 2007

California Credits Conservation for Weathering Heat Wave

California suffered through a blistering heat wave in late August and early September, but at no time did the state require rotating blackouts, thanks to electrical conservation efforts. The California Independent System Operator (ISO), which operates the state's electrical grid, estimated that Californians reduced their electrical demand by about 1,000 megawatts on August 30th, helping to avoid overtaxing the state's transmission grid. Power outages only occurred at local levels and were caused by power distribution systems, not by the transmission system. California's power crunch was caused by a heat wave that affected much of the Southwest, reducing power imports into the state. A dry winter has also reduced hydropower generation by about 1,000 megawatts this summer. See the California ISO press release (PDF 24 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Coincidentally, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a report in early September that notes the increasingly important role of such "demand response" efforts. According to the report, demand response lowered the consumption of electricity by 1.4% to 4.1% during periods of peak demand in 2006. FERC notes that eight regions of the United States set new records for electricity demand last year. See the FERC press release and report (PDF 948 KB).

Meanwhile, a new report from California's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program finds that extreme heat events may be becoming more prevalent in California due to climate change. Along with demand response, the report calls for increased use of energy efficient and solar energy technologies, including passive cooling, ventilation with fans, and solar power generation. The report notes that the use of air conditioning could be most easily avoided in cooler coastal regions, while solar power systems will reduce loads on distribution systems on sunny days, when such load reductions are needed the most. See the report (PDF 792 KB).