California Keeps Its Energy Cool in Summer Scorcher (National Geographic)

When temperatures rose to record highs throughout the Golden State, the lights stayed on and air conditioners kept humming. (Photo credit: Flickr user D.H. Parks)

When temperatures rose to record highs throughout the Golden State, the lights stayed on and air conditioners kept humming. (Photo credit: Flickr user D.H. Parks)

The stage was set for a California power crunch: A blistering heat wave was expected to blanket much of the state, and ocean breezes that normally cool sunbaked valleys and deserts overnight looked unlikely to waft far inland.

Power supplies, meanwhile, were worryingly tight, because low snowpacks had hobbled hydropower resources and California’s two large nuclear plants—among the state’s largest electricity generators—were shut down.

Yet when temperatures rose over a weeklong period to record highs throughout the Golden State—well above 110⁰F (43.3⁰C) in some places before the wave lifted July 5—the lights stayed on and air conditioners kept humming.

How did California do it? It wasn’t wizardry, but mundane moves to bolster supply and curb demand—a combination of natural gas, renewable energy, and conservation—that made California more resilient than some forecasters anticipated when the heat rolled in.

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