By Tracy Correa Lopez
If you’ve ventured outside in recent days, you’ve no doubt felt it: California is in the midst of a brutal heat wave.
Record high temperatures were reported Sunday (June 18) throughout the state, including in the Bay Area with San Jose hitting 103, Oakland hitting 97 and San Francisco reaching 88 degrees. Triple digits were rampant as Redding reached 110 while Sacramento and Fresno’s high was 106.
The extreme temperatures pushed the state’s power grid to its limit and PG&E experienced some of the highest daily heat outage volumes since a July 2006 heat wave.
The sweltering temperatures are expected to continue this week. Bakersfield, for example, is predicted to hit 112 by Tuesday as triple digits linger in interior valleys.
PG&E’s Pat Hogan encouraged customers to do what they can to plan for the heat and above all, stay safe.
“Our top priority during any major weather event is the safety of our customers and employees, and our dedicated crews continue to work through the extreme heat to restore power for all of our customers safely and as quickly as possible,” said Hogan, senior vice president, Electric Operations.
“The week’s record-setting heat event follows one of the most intense winter storm seasons the PG&E service area experienced in decades. Our employees have risen to the challenge throughout 2017 to mobilize the resources and technology needed to restore service to our customers.”
Of the nearly 200,000 customers who lost power Sunday — including more than 100,000 in the Bay Area — 92 percent were restored within six hours and 99 percent within 12 hours.
To respond to the heat-related outages, PG&E has activated 12 division emergency centers and two regional emergency centers. The company is mobilizing and moving resources and personnel to the most-affected areas and continues to evaluate the electric grid and outages to best plan its response to restore service to customers.
Rick Bertel, electric crew foreman at PG&E’s Antioch Service Center in Contra Costa County, said his team worked through the night getting power restored to customers in what he called a rare and early “heat storm.”
“This is not normal,” he said of the triple-digit temps in mid-June. “It’s usually in the 90s, but not in the 100s.”
He said most of the outages are due to the heavy strain on transformers because everyone has their air conditioners on at the same time.
Bertel said his crew has been working 16-hour shifts and is expected to do the same over the next few days. Despite working in sizzling outdoor conditions, he praised their commitment to the work and PG&E customers.
“When it comes to heat, earthquakes, rain and storms… every one of these guys steps up and does a really good job. They work safe, they work hard. They take a lot of pride in their work and I’m really proud to work with them,” he said.
The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees the statewide grid, predicted peak demand today of 45,799 megawatts. CAISO is watching conditions closely and although a Flex Alert was not announced today, one has been issued for Tuesday and Wednesday.
A Flex Alert is an urgent call to immediately conserve electricity during the afternoon —when air conditioners drive consumption — and shift energy use to off-peak hours (after 6 p.m.) when possible.
Below are tips for helping conserve energy and keeping your home or building cool.
- Energy conservation measures help our state meet energy demand during heat events.
- Small changes in your routine — such as shifting power consuming activities to the morning or after 7 p.m. — will help ease the load on California’s power grid, balance demand for electricity and help improve electric reliability on hot days.
- In addition, conserving energy helps to reduce the need to purchase energy from older, more polluting “peaker” power plants, which may be brought online during periods of high demand.
- By conserving energy, you’re not only saving money but helping the environment as well.
Tips for cooling your home or building
- Set your air conditioner thermostat to 78 degrees or higher when you’re at home, health permitting, and 85 degrees when you’re away.
- Setting your AC thermostat 5 degrees higher will save about 10 percent on cooling costs.
- If you turn your ceiling fan on when using the air conditioner, you can raise your thermostat about 4°F to save on cooling costs with no reduction in comfort.
- Shut windows and draw the shades to keep in pre-cooled air from the night and early morning.
- Have your central cooling duct system checked for leaks. Up to 20 percent of cooled air can be lost through leaky or poorly insulated ducts.
- Buy an Energy Star air conditioner if your air conditioner is ready to be replaced. It can reduce energy usage by up to 10 percent.
- Avoid using an electric oven on hot days. Instead, cook on the stove, use a microwave oven, or grill outside.
PG&E wants customers to be mindful of their health during extreme heat conditions including staying hydrated and being aware for signs of heat-related illnesses. For information on staying safe during the heat click here.
Customers can also visit their community cooling centers, many of partially funded by PG&E. For more information on cooling centers and how to find the nearest one see www.pge.com/coolingcenter.
Email Tracy Correa Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.