U.S. Grid Operator Declares Level One Emergency Amid Record Heat

July 27, 2023

PJM Interconnection, the biggest U.S. electric grid operator, issued a Level One emergency alert for Thursday as Americans power up their air conditioners against record heat levels.  

The Energy Emergency Alert Level 1 went into effect at 5am ET Thursday amid concerns by JPM about sustaining its required Contingency Reserves.

PJM oversees the energy supply in a 13-state region from Delaware to Illinois, managing and paying on-call generators to keep power systems running.

The power grid in Texas—not covered by PJM—hit a record high on July 18, though the state has so far avoided rolling blackouts. Arizona has also power use soaring to an all-time high this week, which is on track to be the hottest week so far in the continental United States, with more than 250 million people experiencing heat indexes—a “real feel” measure that factors in humidity—of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius).

The scorching temperatures come amid Earth’s hottest month on record, with at least 17 days in July so far hotter than any others in more than 40 years of global observations, according to climate scientists.

Temperatures in Phoenix have exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) every day this month.

Also on Thursday the Biden Administration was set to announce new steps to protect workers and others against dangerous heat conditions through several cabinet departments that will be funded by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Heat is the deadliest natural disaster known to humans, killing more every year than any other extreme weather events, including flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning.

Last year, Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa, experienced  425 heat-associated deaths, more than half of them in July 2022. Among the Arizonans whose lives have been taken by the heat this year was a 72-year-old woman whose power had been cut off over a $51 debt.

In Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has eliminated mandatory water breaks for workers, 13 people died from the heat in June alone with still more deaths reported this month.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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