Portland heat wave: Metro area sets summer energy use record

Add one more to the list of records Portland has topped this week: Fueled by triple-digit heat, the metro area has used more electricity this summer than any before.

As temperatures broke daily records with highs of 103 degrees Wednesday and 106 Thursday, air conditioners and fans hard at work pushed summer power consumption past the previous record for three days in a row, the Bonneville Power Administration said Friday.

Customers used 8,048 megawatts on Tuesday, 8,226 on Wednesday and 8,208 on Thursday, said David Wilson, a spokesman for the power administration. The previous record usage was 7,861 megawatts in summer 2014.

After Thursday’s high landed it among the 10 hottest days on record, Friday’s 90s temperatures gave Portlanders a slight reprieve from the scorching heat. Still, the day’s temperature was significantly hotter than the average for the date. Typically, the high temperature for Aug. 4 is in the low 80s.

A heat advisory issued by the National Weather Service still in effect until 9 p.m. Friday.

Portland General Electric also set energy usage records Thursday, when temperatures reached 105 degrees at the Portland International Airport. Customers used 3,976 megawatts at 6 p.m., the most energy used during the summer, PGE spokesman Sam Sittser said.

PGE’s all-time record is 4,073 megawatts, set on Dec. 21, 1998, when temperatures dropped to 16 degrees at the airport.  A single megawatt can power 700 Northwest homes.

The number of Portlanders using air conditioners has risen in recent years. In 2002, 44 percent of Portland area residents reported having air conditioning, according to the U.S. Census. In 2015, that number had risen to 70 percent.  

The additional power usage and extreme heat caused a few small outages across the metro area, Sittser said. But, he said, equipment updates over the past several years, including smart meters and a smart grid that reduces the amount and length of outages, aided the system’s ability to withstand the increased power demands.

“Considering the record demand, the system held up pretty well,” he said.

As temperatures begin to drop this weekend and next week, energy consumption will fall as well, Sittser said.

But Portland doesn’t appear to be done setting records just yet. Judging by next week’s forecast, the city is on track to beat the longest streak of days with temperatures above 90 degrees.

The current record is 10 consecutive days, set in 2009.

By Friday, five days in a row have been above 90 degrees, with the mercury topping out at 97 at the Portland International Airport. (This time, the daily record stayed intact. The record high for Aug. 4 was 102, set in 2012.)

According to the National Weather Service seven-day forecast, temperatures will hover in the mid- to low 90s until next Friday, which is expected to top out at 86 degrees. It will be sunny and dry throughout the week, the weather service said.

As of Friday, Portland has no measurable rain since June 17 – a 48-day streak, the weather service said. That’s the ninth-longest streak on record. The all-time record is 71 days in 1967.

Smoky skies over the city Friday should clear by Friday night, when winds are anticipated to blow the smoke out of the Willamette Valley. But the weather service said the smoke may return later in the weekend once winds shift again.

— Samantha Matsumoto

smatsumoto@oregonian.com

503-294-4001; @SMatsumoto55

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