LOCAL NEWS

Puget Sound power companies not expecting problems in heat wave

Jun 25, 2021, 4:18 PM
wind storm, heat wave...
(Puget Sound Energy via Twitter, file photo)
(Puget Sound Energy via Twitter, file photo)

Going into a record heat wave this weekend, local utilities companies do not anticipate seeing any heat-related power problems, like blackouts or brownouts.

These power outages can occur during extreme heat events, when a power system gets overwhelmed by air conditioner usage, and when transmission lines sag as they overheat.

While Washington has an unofficial reputation as the state where people don’t own air conditioners — because we don’t need them for most of the year! — Puget Sound Energy says with the hot summers of recent years, more and more people are getting on the AC train.

“We’re seeing more customers adding air conditioners to their homes, and power consumption continues to rise each summer, based on what we’re seeing,” said PSE spokesperson Andrew Padula.

Washington could see hottest recorded day in state’s history in next few days

Still, he said, they are prepared to handle it.

“We don’t anticipate any type of blackouts,” Padula said. “Our system is currently performing well, and energy usage is being monitored around the clock.”

People in Tacoma also do not need to be worried about losing power, as per Tacoma Power.

“Tacoma Power, along with other Northwest utilities, has evaluated the anticipated peak energy needs, and Tacoma has adequate capacity to meet our expected demand along with contingency reserves,” the agency said in an emailed statement. “The historical peaks for summer events run around 660 MW, but we are expecting almost 760 MWs. Tacoma Power does not anticipate service interruptions to our customers, but we are prepared to respond if the higher than normal temperatures cause a situation.”

And in the Puget Sound’s largest city, Seattle City Light is confident that there should be no blackouts or brownouts.

“Seattle City Light expects we have adequate resources to meet anticipated load increases associated with the heat wave,” the agency told KIRO Radio. “We do not anticipate any proactive service outages, but will be monitoring conditions and will respond appropriately if an unexpected concern arises that could be mitigated with a shift in operations. Given our robust system, we could likely do that without cutting power to any customers.”

Seattle City Light spokesperson Michelle Vargo said at a press conference that it is possible some electric lines and transmission stations here will have to go dark to prevent wildfires. Power lines have started wildfires during some California heat waves.

“Wildfire concerns are real, and we are working with all of the other utilities and monitoring the government agencies that help us monitor the conditions around our transmission right-of-ways,” Vargo said.

Vargo says all planned outages are being rescheduled so people will have electricity for air conditioning and fans.

PSE is not too worried about power lines on the west side of the state, but it is carefully monitoring the lines it has in the Cascades, where the red flag fire warning was issued.

“In Kittitas County, we have some service areas out there, and we’ll probably be watching that very closely,” Padula said. “But each situation is dealt with on its own unique basis.”

How to save energy during the heat wave

We can all do our part this weekend to lessen the impact on the grid — and, as a bonus, lower our electric bills.

“We do hope our customers will conserve energy as a benefit to the system and their own comfort and energy consumption,” Padula said.

If you do have air conditioning, set your thermostat high — at least 75 degrees, Padula said. It may seem counter-intuitive to set the heat higher than you would on a snow day, but it helps the AC to not have to work as hard. Close blinds and windows to keep the hot air out — but you can open the windows for cross-ventilation after dark.

If you don’t have AC, use fans — but make sure to turn those fans off when you leave the room.

“Remember, those fans only cool you, not the room,” Padula said.

Use appliances like dishwashers and washing machines only at night. Try to cook a later dinner, use microwaves or toasters instead of the stove, or grill outside to avoid heating up your house even more while making food.

“Any type of appliance that is going to generate heat is going to create more problems and warm up your house further,” Padula said.

Turn lights off during the day, if you can. If you work from home and need the lights on, it’s helpful to switch to LED bulbs to reduce heat in the room.

For more tips on how to reduce energy, visit PSE’s website.

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Puget Sound power companies not expecting problems in heat wave