Blackout Risk Shifts to California From Texas as Heat Sears West
(Bloomberg) - The possibility of blackouts is decreasing in Texas as more power plants come back online, but the risk is increasing in California as a dangerous heat wave is driving temperatures in the western states into three digits.
The Texan network operator estimates that the available capacity will increase to 75 gigawatts this afternoon, an increase of almost 6% compared to Tuesday, as plants that had failed due to repairs will be back on the grid. Demand is expected to peak at nearly 70 gigawatts, little changed since Tuesday as temperatures rise above 35 degrees Celsius in much of Texas.
The heat wave is only just beginning in California. Sacramento could hit 110 on Thursday and Friday, which would boost demand for electricity. California officials have already warned of possible shortfalls.
"It will be historic, considering that some of the recordings and duration are over a week," said Bob Oravec, a senior forecaster at the US Weather Forecast Center, of the heatwave.
California's grid operators have warned that the biggest power shortage could be on Thursday. While the state will rely on electricity from neighboring states during the heat waves, the heat is expected to reach the Canadian border this week and cap imports, according to the California Independent System Operator, who manages most of the state's electricity grid.
The scorching weather marks the first heat stress tests of the year for U.S. power grids as a historic drought hits the western half of the nation. It comes almost a year after California suffered rolling power outages during a heat wave last summer.
Supplies in Texas became scarcer after power plants with up to 12.2 gigawatts of generating capacity, enough to power around 2.4 million households, unexpectedly went down for repairs in the past few days. By late Tuesday, this value had dropped to 10.6 gigawatts. Around two-thirds of the power plants that are out of service are natural gas, coal and nuclear power plants. The network operator announced that the rest would be wind and sun.
As of 10:56 a.m. local time, the system had around 4.7 gigawatts of power reserves. Ercot said it would declare the first stage of a grid emergency if reserves drop below 2.3 gigawatts and would start blackouts if they drop below 1 gigawatt.
One thing that could cool temperatures along the Texas coast is rain from a potential tropical system taking shape in the southern Gulf of Mexico. "Perhaps a cold front will move down from the north by Monday," Oravec said. "By then it will be hot."
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