FILE PHOTO: Californians urged to cut power use during extreme heat

California’s electricity demand breaks all-time record during severe heat wave

As temperatures reached record-breaking levels across California on Tuesday, so did the state’s electrical demand.

Tuesday’s peak demand reached 52,061 megawatts, according to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the corporation that operates the state’s electrical grid.


Graph by Jenna Cohen.

WATCH: Record setting heat wave pushes california power grid to the brink

Tuesday’s peak demand set an all-time record, according to historical data from CAISO, reaching over 6,000 kilowatts more than the average peak over the last 20 years.

The excess demand was enough power for 4.6 million households.

household power graphic

Graphic by Jenna Cohen.

Consumer energy conservation played a large role in preventing rolling power outages, CAISO said on Twitter. The state urged consumers to reduce energy use between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. by taking actions like setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher if health permits, unplugging unused electronic devices, turning off unnecessary lights and avoiding the use of major appliances.

consumer actions graphic

Graphic by Jenna Cohen.

“We are seeing more severe heat waves […] throughout the West, exacerbated by climate change,” author and Wall Street Journal reporter Katherine Blunt told NewsHour’s Stephanie Sy.

READ MORE: Weekend storms to cool California heat wave, but may cause flash floods

“That makes it so that electricity demand during these periods of time is really very high,” Blunt said. “This is ultimately a question of keeping levels of demand and supply in balance, because, if there is an imbalance, you risk wider system breakdown.”

FLEX alerts, which serve as a call to conserve energy during critical times, were issued statewide and extended for the rest of the week.