U.S. cold snap prompts warning for Californians to conserve power

A shortage of natural gas triggered by the extreme cold weather across the nation prompted California’s power grid operator to issue a statewide flex alert Thursday, officials said.

The cold snap in the rest of the country and Canada has affected fuel supplies to Southern California power plants and reduced electricity generation, according to a statement from Cal ISO.

The agency is asking residents to reduce their energy use between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday. Though the shortage only affects Southern California power plants, statewide conservation will free up electricity and gas supplies for the region, the agency said.

[Updated, 5:06 p.m., Feb. 6: Flex alerts are rare in the winter, and are typically issued in the summer when demand for power is high, said Stephanie McCorkle, director of communications for California ISO.

[Natural gas is a popular fuel source across the U.S., and the pipeline is widespread, reaching up into Canada, she said. When such cold weather events occur, the supply in California can be affected,  she said.

[Shortages are the result of many factors, she said, including where local suppliers get the resource if wellheads are frozen.  Since the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Southern California has been more reliant on gas-fired plants, she said.

[“The good news is, we don’t have high electrical demand in California right now, not the kind of demand we see in the summer,” she said.

[The agency will continue to analyze power levels to determine whether the flex alert needs to be extended, she said. Residents can find updates and can track demand at the California ISO website.]

Conservation tips include turning off unneeded lights, turning off large appliances, turning down or turning off heaters and saving water


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