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Why record heat could cause blackouts in California

By reducing energy consumption, citizens can reduce grid strain

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Electrical grid transmission towers are seen in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 15, 2020. A heat wave that is expected this week could create blackouts across the West.

John Antczak, Associated Press

Summer is coming to a close, but nature will continue to turn up the thermostat for the next week in the Southwest states.

Southeast California, southern Nevada and western Arizona will be most affected.

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning on Wednesday morning warning the Mojave Deseret region of record high temperatures ranging from 108 to 113 and the Death Valley National Park area of temperatures up to 122 degrees.

The alert is expected to stay active until Sunday night when temperatures are expected to normalize.

This type of heat has the potential to cause blackouts across California as power lines and infrastructure could be damaged by high temperatures, as Forbes reported.

“We need to put as many of the power lines underground as possible, that’s certainly going to make a difference in terms of reliability in wildfires and other key related issues,” California Rep. Jerry McNerney, a Democrat and member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said. “Extreme temperatures compromise the stability of power lines and causes — among other structural issues — drooping,” he said.

Struggling under heat, the electrical grid system is also being pushed to its limits.

Forbes reported earlier this month that the end of August into the beginning of September is what the North American Electric Reliability Corporation CEO and President Jim Robb called “a real strain period for the grid.”

The National Weather Service warns that more electricity is used by air conditioners and refrigerators to keep indoor spaces cooler. In addition to the grid reducing its transmission capacity in response to the high heat, blackouts and power outages are possible.

To not overpower the grid, businesses and households are advised to reduce energy consumption until the heat wave passes. Fox Business reported that officials recommended thermostats be set to 78 degrees or higher — conserving energy as much as possible — and not to use larger appliances.