Summertime heat waves are no picnic for anyone, but they can be especially stressful for the national power grid. When air conditioners are running across entire regions, the demand placed on the electrical grid can increase the risk of widespread blackouts. And due to a major natural gas leak in Southern California in late 2015, the prospect of blackouts will loom over that region all summer long.
The massive leak was discovered in October in Aliso Canyon, roughly 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Tens of thousands of tons of methane were released into the atmosphere, causing adverse health and environmental effects. But in addition to those consequences, the leak also set up the possibility of energy shortages this summer when air conditioner use begins to put pressure on the energy supply. An action plan drafted by multiple California energy organizations predicts up to 14 days of blackouts if the summertime energy demand is too great.
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Facing the possibility of widespread power outages, regulators and utilities are working to expand programs designed to encourage residents to conserve energy during the hottest days of summer, according to Green Tech Media. One such program, Flex Alert, uses text messages to ask homeowners to voluntarily raise their thermostats a few degrees and turn off unnecessary lights.
There’s another type of program that won’t see widespread implementation for at least another year, but that may ultimately make a big difference both for the health of the electrical grid and the cost of keeping cool in summer. Called bring-your-own-thermostat (BYOT) programs, these efforts use the communication abilities of smart thermostats to automate energy conservation during peak times. Homeowners who enroll can have their thermostats adjusted automatically by a few degrees in exchange for credits on their utility bills.
Whether your electricity is threatened by energy shortages during peak times or simply the occasional severe storm, it pays to be prepared. If you don’t have a power outage emergency plan or a stash of supplies, consider getting organized this spring with the help of these tips from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:
- Assemble an emergency preparedness kit with batteries, flashlights, radios, first aid supplies, cash and other necessities.
- Keep essential mobile devices and gadgets charged, and find alternative charging methods for those devices in the event of a power outage.
- Fill unused freezer space with water-filled containers to help keep frozen foods cold during longer power interruptions.
- Know where to find emergency shelters in your area -- even if you don’t need shelter from a severe storm, you may need a climate controlled environment.
- Consider investing in a generator to help keep your essential appliances and devices running during a power outage.
If you’re considering the protection of a generator or have any need for electrical maintenance, repair or installation, get in touch with your expert local electricians this spring.