California urges power conservation in heat wave, prices soar

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Sun rises to begin another day during heatwave in California

(Reuters) -U.S. power prices soared on Wednesday as homes and businesses cranked up air conditioners to escape another heat wave, prompting the California grid operator to urge conservation.

The United States has been beset by extreme weather events this year, including February's freeze in Texas that knocked out power to millions and record heat in the Pacific Northwest this summer.

High temperatures were expected to reach 102 Fahrenheit (39 Celsius) on Friday in Portland, Oregon, where the normal high is 80 F at this time of year, according to AccuWeather.

Meteorologists also forecast hotter-than-normal weather in Central California, which is used to temperatures over 100 F.

The California ISO, grid operator for most of the state, issued a flex alert urging consumers to conserve electricity on Wednesday evening to reduce strain on the grid and avoid outages when solar power stops working as the sun goes.

Last August, a heat wave forced California utilities to impose rotating blackouts that left over 400,000 customers without power when supplies ran short.

Next-day power prices for Thursday soared to $489 per megawatt hour at the Mid Columbia hub in Washington, its highest since hitting a record $891 in March 2019. In 2020, the hub averaged $25.

The California ISO forecast power demand would peak at 41,185 megawatts (MW) on Wednesday and 41,858 MW on Thursday. That is below July 9th's peak for the year of 43,193 MW and the all-time high of 50,270 MW in July 2006.

One megawatt can power about 200 homes in the summer.

The ISO has said it expects to have about 50,734 MW of supply available this summer, but some of that is solar, which is not available when the sun sets.

The ISO had 14,628 MW of solar capacity in June that produced a record 13,205 MW in May.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)

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