Edison urges electricity use cuts in heat wave to ease stress on system

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(August 10, 2012, Palm Springs, CA) – Southern California Edison sounded an alarm Wednesday, asking its customers to turn up the thermostat, especially at night, to give straining equipment a break — and avoid power outages.

 

Temperatures soared to 115 degrees in Palm Springs, and are expected to climb to 117 on Sunday. Imperial Irrigation District, which handles Coachella, Indio and La Quinta, was just 25 megawatts short of hitting its maximum capacity Wednesday, said spokesman Kevin Kelley.

 

The utility can handle 1,000 megawatts and was at 975 at 3:30 p.m. Edison was “doing OK for now” with power reserves, Edison spokesman David Song said, but that could change with unforeseen circumstances, such as a wildfire. Equipment working overtime is the worry right now. “When you get into day three, day four, day five of a prolonged heat wave, you see people using more electricity around the clock,” he said. “When we don’t give equipment time to rest, that’s when we have problems.”

 

Contingency Plans

Edison has increased the number of crews available to respond to potential outages throughout the weekend. IID also has contingency plans. Electricity went out for 187 Edison customers south of Vista Chino and west of North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. The cause was under investigation.

 

Coachella Valley residents sounded off online about the heat and how they were coping. “Had to stop wearing hoop earrings because they burned the side of my face!” Palm Springs businesswoman Joy Meredith said.

 

“I’m trying my best to keep their plants alive,” said Eileen Butler, 63, of Cathedral City, who was house-sitting for some friends. “You even have to water the cactus.”

 

Carol Kamenis, 68, of Cathedral City silently sweltered. “I don’t bitch and complain about it anymore,” she said. “My friends know I hate it.”

 

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the majority of the state’s electric grid, had not issued any alerts Wednesday about potential power outages or the need to conserve electricity. According to information on the ISO website, while Wednesday’s peak use ran slightly over forecasted amounts, the state had enough power to cover it. Earlier this year, ISO and Edison officials warned of potential power outages this summer due to the ongoing closure at the San Onofre nuclear power plant near San Clemente. The plant, which supplied power for up to 1.4 million homes, has been closed since January due to unexpected wear to tubes that carry radioactive water. A reopening date is still uncertain