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California urges power conservation in heat wave, prices soar By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The morning sun rises over a neighborhood as a heatwave continues during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Encinitas, California, U.S., August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

(Reuters) – U.S. power prices for Wednesday jumped as homes and businesses crank up air conditioners to escape another heat wave, prompting the California electric grid operator to urge conservation.

The United States has been beset by extreme weather events this year, including February’s freeze in Texas that knocked out power to millions and record heat in the Pacific Northwest this summer.

High temperatures were expected to reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) on Friday in Portland, Oregon, where the normal high is just 80 degrees F (27 C) at this time of year, according to AccuWeather.

Meteorologists also forecast hotter-than-normal weather in Central California, which is used to temperatures over 100 F (38 C).

The California ISO, the grid operator for most of the state, issued a flex alert urging consumers to conserve electricity Wednesday evening to reduce strain on the grid and avoid outages when solar power stops working as the sun goes.

Last August, a heat wave forced California utilities to impose rotating blackouts that left over 400,000 customers without power for up to 2-1/2 hours when supplies ran short.

Next-day power prices for Wednesday more than doubled to $198 per megawatt hour at the Mid Columbia hub in Washington. In 2020, the hub averaged $26.

The California ISO forecast power demand would peak at 41,579 megawatts (MW) on Wednesday before easing to 41,483 MW on Thursday. That is below July 9th’s peak for the year of 43,193 MW and the all-time high of 50,270 MW in July 2006.

One megawatt can power about 200 homes in the summer.

The ISO has said it expects to have about 50,734 MW of supply available this summer, but some of that is solar, which is not available when the sun sets.

The ISO had 14,628 MW of solar capacity in June that produced a record 13,205 MW in May.

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