LOS ANGELES (AP) — Californians were urged to voluntarily cut their electricity use Thursday in a rare mid-winter conservation alert, after frigid weather across the U.S. and Canada caused a shortage of natural gas at Southern California power plants.
"While the natural gas shortage is only impacting Southern California power plants, statewide electricity and gas conservation will help free up both electricity and gas supplies for Southern Californians," the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state's power grid, said in a statement.
Requests for Californians to curtail their power use typically occur in summer, when temperatures soar and air conditioners roar, especially across Southern California.
The so-called Flex Alert, in which residents are asked to turn off unneeded lights, avoid using large appliances or equipment, and turn off electrically powered heaters, was set to expire at 10 p.m. Thursday.
It wasn't immediately clear if the conservation request would extend beyond a single day.
Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the grid operator, said Southern California has become increasingly dependent on natural gas-fired plants since the decision last year to shutter the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant, which is located between Los Angeles and San Diego.
When it was operating, the twin-reactor San Onofre plant produced enough power for 1.4 million homes.
According to 2010 California Energy Commission research, 53 percent of the power generated in the state comes from natural gas.
Record amounts of natural gas are being burned for heat and electricity across North America.