Israel Electric Corporation Warns of Blackouts as Heat Wave Peaks

The IEC is calling on the public to refrain from using high-consuming electrical appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and ovens during the afternoon hours.

The Israel Electric Corporation may be forced to institute rolling blackouts − the deliberate cutoff of power to some customers − if demand exceeds supply when the current heat wave reaches its peak today.

The generating capacity in the country on Thursday was 10,800 megawatts and demand approached maximum capacity − a situation that is expected to continue during the course of this week, with the hot weather and high electricity consumption levels.

The IEC is calling on the public to refrain from using high-consuming electrical appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and ovens during the afternoon hours. It is also asking that thermostats on air conditioners be set at 25 degrees Celsius.

If consumption exceeds supply, the electric company will institute blackouts that would initially affect facilities that consume large amounts of power and which will be forced to resort to generators.

If that isn’t sufficient, the rolling blackouts − of an hour at most − would affect residential areas. If even that is not enough, mid-sized industrial plants and residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would also see power cuts.

The IEC said rolling blackouts would be proportionally distributed around the country, based on normal electrical consumption in each area. Essential facilities such as hospitals and defense installations would be spared the cuts.

Over the weekend, IEC crews worked to repair a technical problem that was discovered at the Orot Rabin power plant near Hadera, which deprived the national electricity grid of about 5 percent of its output. The IEC hoped that the repairs would be completed by this morning so the roughly 600 megawatts of electricity that the affected equipment produces is back online when electricity demand rises in the middle of the day.

Even following the repair, however, national production will not be at capacity due to repairs required at generating facilities that normally supply 375 megawatts of power in the Haifa area. These repairs will only be completed in about a month. There are also 140 megawatts of under-capacity at Gezer, where a technical problem is expected to be fixed in about two weeks.

To address the current demand, the IEC is expected to start supplying natural gas − beginning today − to private electricity-generating facilities that cannot use heavy fuel oil or diesel fuel.

These locations have not been using natural gas due to the shortage of the fuel, but supplies by the IEC are expected to enable them to produce another 200 megawatts.

Residents around the country had a preview of sorts Thursday of what an electricity shortage would look like after a technical glitch at the IEC’s Rutenberg generating plant in Ashkelon caused a 575 megawatt loss of generating capacity. This caused power failures at various locations, including the center of Tel Aviv and in Kfar Sava.

The IEC said that during heat wave conditions such as the present one, even if temperatures don’t climb any higher, electricity consumption generally increases each day, because the structures of air-conditioned buildings do not cool down before the next day’s heat strikes. Air conditioning the following day therefore requires additional power just to maintain the same interior temperatures. As a heat wave continues, people also find it more difficult to deal with high temperatures, the IEC noted.