Rolling blackouts in California


Victoria Ta

Families are struggling to conserve energy as heat waves spread across California.

Arya Bhattacharjee, Staff Writer

With the recent statewide blackout issued by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) due to the ongoing heat waves, families have been encouraged to limit their electricity usage and keep their air conditioning units either on low power or completely off. This is creating a dangerous situation for seniors and those with medical device. But with climate change resulting in an increase in heatwaves and temperatures reaching record highs, telling families to turn off their air conditioning can lead to an increased number of health problems in addition to the effects of an ongoing pandemic, which is why those with the ability to resist the heat must take the responsibility to save energy.

Heat waves are taking over most of the state, and temperatures have reached triple digits, causing families to rush to their thermostats and set their air conditioning to full power. Normally, this would increase the nationwide power consumption by a good amount, but combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, the spike in electricity usage led the CAISO to issue a statewide blackout for the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 14: The first ordered blackout in CA since 2001.

“We are grateful to families and businesses across the state that answered the call to reduce electricity use during a crucial time on the grid. This heat storm is not over, and we still expect exceedingly hot temperatures,” said Steve Berberich, ISO president and CEO. “With continued help from California residents in conserving energy, much like today, we can reduce the risk of power outages.”

While the extreme heat proved to be quite taxing on the CA power grid, heat waves can actually be much more taxing on humans. Even though a majority of heat related illnesses are curable, a research article by Environmental Epidemiology reports that there are still around 297 deaths per year in the U.S. caused by extreme heat.

As of right now, with the pandemic limiting us to the boundaries of our houses, the state’s power usage has gone up due to lights being on for longer and computers being used continuously, in addition to the heatwave increasing our air condition usage. Therefore, it becomes our job as those who are less vulnerable to the heat to limit our own power and electricity usage so that those who depend on artificial cooling receive the power they need to ensure their safety.