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Heat Wave Generates Concerns Over Viability of Utah Power Grid

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Friday, June 18, 2021   

SALT LAKE CITY -- Extreme drought has brought abnormally high temperatures across the Western states this week, and normally temperate Utah has not escaped the sizzling heat.

With temperatures rising well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, many experts wondered aloud if Utah's power grid could withstand the stress.

Recent problems in Texas and California were cited in a study presented to the Utah Legislature's Public Utilities, Energy, Technology Committee.

The report found Utah's power provider might not be able to avoid blackouts in a period of extreme heat.

Christine Kruse, lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service Salt Lake City office, said the forecast is not optimistic.

"We had a temperature of 107 in Utah in this stretch, and that ties our all-time high-temperature record," Kruse observed. "Those temperatures are normally in July. This has been almost unprecedented heat for June."

The report found when Utah sees summer temperatures like its neighbors in Nevada and Arizona, its grid does not have enough "spinning" or reserve capacity or the interconnectivity to keep the lights and air conditioning on in an extended heat wave.

Jeff, Bousson, climate program manager for Clean Energy Utah, said urban planners need to better account for climate change as they build the state's towns and cities.

"This is the climate decade," Bousson asserted. "What we decide to do now in the 2020s is going to dictate what kind of future we want to live, what kind of climate change future we want to live in."

Bousson argued officials need to help Utahns do a better job of preparing to deal with extreme summer heat as well as the winter's cold.

"Right now, real time, community members that don't have A/C during summer, especially during these times, what they can do to stay cool and what the county is proposing to do moving forward to have greener and shadier and cooler communities," Bousson remarked.

Bousson added local municipalities and groups such as the LDS Church help Utahns prepare for natural disasters. He pointed out, however, extreme heat is the number one cause of death due to climate change.


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