Unprecedented heat waves force southwest U.S. to burn unprecedented levels of electricity

Kramer Phillips By Kramer Phillips | 3 years ago

Power companies across the southwestern United States broke new records for power consumption last week as heat waves reaching as high as 119 degrees Fahrenheit descended on the region. The unusually hot weather forced communities to turn up their air-conditioning systems to the max, which led to at least eight utility companies across five states transmitting more electricity through their grids than ever before.
Roseville, California, set a new electricity record on June 19th, when the Turlock Irrigation District, which provides hydroelectricity, churned out 644 megawatts—the previous all-time high was 608. The Salt River Project of Phoenix, Arizona, broke its own records twice: on June 19, when demand reached 6,981 megawatts; and again the next day, when demand surged to 7,219 megawatts. The utility’s previous record was last summer and totaled 6,873.
Much of North America is feeling hotter weather. The trend is consistent with global temperature averages, which broke a new record high in each of the last three years.
The United States is no exception, according to the nonprofit Climate Central, which finds that the number of days in which temperature highs surpassed 95 degrees has risen substantially in many places throughout the country.
All of this lends itself to more electricity generation to provide for more cooling. Maximilian Auffhammer, a University of California-Berkeley environmental economist, noted this and told USA Today that the increased electricity consumption will likely continue and will necessitate the development of new energy sources. He added that the southwestern states’ energy demands are compounded due to population growth throughout the region.
“People like to have their lights on, and they like to be able to operate their air conditioner when they need it,” said Auffhammer. “In order to make sure we’re going to have these electricity services we need or these cooling services we want, we can either become more efficient or we can put more (power plants) online.”