California's power grid urged customers to conserve energy for the ninth day in a row on Thursday as homes and businesses crank up their air conditioners to escape a brutal heat wave lingering over the drought-stricken region since the start of September.
The California Independent System Operator (ISO), the grid operator for most of the state, said consumer conservation efforts so far this week have been key to helping the grid avoid rotating outages. Demand for power in the ISO hit an all-time high on Tuesday while prices for Tuesday and Wednesday hit two-year highs before dropping on Thursday.
The ISO again issued an alert and called on residents to not charge their electric vehicles, use major appliances, and to turn off lights between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. That's because the state, in part, relies on solar energy. When the sun goes down, solar power stops working.
High temperatures in Sacramento, the state capital, have topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day in September and were forecast to reach 111 degrees F on Thursday and 106 F on Friday before the heat wave breaks on Saturday, according to AccuWeather.
The ISO projected power demand would reach 51,361 megawatts (MW) on Thursday and 48,897 MW on Friday. That compares with the preliminary record of 52,061 MW on Tuesday, which broke the prior all-time high of 50,270 MW in 2006.
As the ISO issued alerts this week, questions have arisen over whether the state's grid can handle widespread electric vehicle usage. Last month, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to phase out gas-powered cars in favor of electric ones by 2035.
“If we can’t do these things today, how are we going to do when everything needs to be electric?” one driver asked. “Unless you have a home charger it’s an absolute disaster,” an electric vehicle owner, named Rebecca, told the station.