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The BBC's David Willis in California
"The current heatwave has further increased demand"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
California faces power cut threat
Bill Gates and Microsoft logo
Microsoft may build its own power generators
California has been threatened with power cuts after soaring industrial demand combined with a heatwave brought the state's power grid to the point of collapse.

Power suppliers warned customers they were preparing a series of blackouts, because the grid had simply run out of power.

But officials later said it was possible the crisis could be averted without resorting to shutting off the power.

The switch-off was expected to affect areas where some of the world's richest companies are based, including Silicon Valley.

California's Independent System Operator (ISO), which operates most of the grid, was forced to buy in supplies from neighbouring grids to help stabilise the situation.

Soaring demand

Some customers, whose contracts allow them to have their service interrupted in times of shortages, did lose their power.

Power companies say it is the burgeoning high-tech industries which are largely responsible for soaring demand in power consumption.

One microchip manufacturing plant burns as much power as 50,000 homes, experts say.

But the heatwave has made matters worse, as air conditioning systems and fans are switched on across the state.

Rivals

Temperatures in Sacramento reached 40C (105F), and San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley, was forecast to reach 32C (90F).

San Francisco and Los Angeles are also suffering higher temperatures than normal.

New plants are under construction to cope with the growing demand from the computer firms.

But some firms are taking matters into their own hands. Oracle has already built its own sub-station and several of its rivals, including Microsoft, are said to be thinking of doing the same.

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31 Jul 00 | Business
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25 Dec 99 | Business
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