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Calif. Grid Operator: Summer Blackouts Will Hinge on A/C Use

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

The state's power-grid operator says there should be enough electricity to go around this summer. But blistering hot days could bring blackouts if Californians don't conserve. KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps has the details.

Weather forecasts are an imperfect science. But they're important to the electricity experts in Sacramento. On hot days, people crank up the air conditioner. That can cripple the energy grid. Gregg Smith is with California's Independent System Operator.

Smith : Our peak demand today is probably gonna be right around 31,000 megawatts. Now that's a lot of power -- but our peak demand last summer was over 50,000 megawatts. So the difference between a relatively mild day like today and a scorcher of a day like we saw last July can be 20,000 megawatts. And that's all air conditioning.

Smith says summer shouldn't be as hot as last year. But Californians should still lower the thermostat -- in case the state's giant power supply gets overloaded. For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.

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