California Blackouts: Are Suburban Homes to Blame?

As of 11:00 a.m. PDT, the temperature in Livermore, Calif., was 94 degrees, with a projected high of 100. With another sweltering day expected throughout California, NPR's Richard Gonzales has this reminder:

Californians anticipating the return of the bad old days of power blackouts can blame a freakish heat wave. But energy experts say the escalating demands on our strained power grid are the result of coinciding demographic and technological trends: As our population grows, we are building more and larger homes requiring a multitude of power-hungry devices in the hottest regions of the state.

There are more than 37 million Californians, 2.5 million more than there were in 2001, and many of these new residents live in the fastest growing suburbs and exurbs in the state: the Inland Empire and the Central Valley, far from the cool winds of the Pacific Ocean. The average new home is more than 2400 square feet, fifty percent larger than a new home built in the Seventies. And even though modern homes are substantially more energy efficient, they are also filled with computers, flat screen TVs, and second refrigerators. California is literally growing into the heat.

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