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Electrical Load Shedding FAQ

Learn more about how UC San Diego responds to extreme heat events.

How have past and recent heat waves affected the UC San Diego campus?

Major heat events have affected the campus in the past, but UC San Diego has protocols in place that help limit, to the greatest extent possible, adverse effects on our building systems and occupant comfort. In early September 2022, a major heat event caused the campus to implement Central Utilities Plant and HVAC operational changes, resulting in limited higher overall temperatures in many campus buildings.

How does a heat wave affect the campus infrastructure? Are any infrastructure improvements planned to address anticipated recurring heat waves?

During the early September 2022 heat wave, campus experienced its highest cooling load demand, which exceeded system capacity. Cooling was curtailed campuswide to avoid a potential system failure. Infrastructure improvements to expand chilling system capacity began in February 2022. The first phase of the expansion will be completed by 2024 and will serve the campus cooling demand until 2030. However, the September 2022 heat wave presented loads that were not projected until 2026. The campus may need to start the second phase of expansion sooner than anticipated.

Do campus dorms and classrooms have air conditioning?

Dorms are not air conditioned; we designed buildings with operable windows and exterior features oriented to take advantage of prevailing ocean breezes. Most academic spaces have HVAC and/or operable windows.

Have heat waves disrupted academic activities on campus?

To date, the campus has not experienced any classroom teaching interruptions related to heat waves. During the early September 2022 heat wave, classes were not in session, but faculty and staff on campus were notified in advance of necessary adjustments to building systems during the electrical load-shedding event.

What resources does the campus provide to students, faculty and staff during extreme weather events?

Facilities and operations staff closely monitor weather forecasts to prepare for weather-related events, including heat waves. Our teams provide advanced communication to the campus if systems need to be adjusted, such as during an electrical load-shedding event, so that faculty, staff, students and guests are aware that temperatures may be elevated for a certain amount of time in designated campus buildings. This allows temperature-sensitive individuals time to prepare. Some campus spaces are not affected by load shedding to provide “cool zones” (Geisel Library, Wong Avery Library and Price Center) for heat-sensitive individuals.

Does UC San Diego have any policies or protocols to address major climate events, such as heat waves?

UC San Diego Central Utilities Plant and Facilities Management have established protocols for climate events, such as storms and extreme heat, that focus on ensuring the health and safety of the campus community and limiting damage to buildings and infrastructure. These include storm preparation efforts before known events, electrical load shedding and adjustments to our campuswide Building Automation Systems during extreme heat events.

Facilities operations teams work collaboratively to ensure students, faculty and staff receive advanced communication about extreme weather events and the actions being taken to mitigate disruptions so that they can focus on teaching, learning, research and administration.

How does UC San Diego support our state and regional power systems?

Because recurring heat waves place an increased demand on the state’s electrical system and the SDG&E regional grid, the potential for grid instability and possible power loss due to scheduled rolling blackouts and unexpected failures exists. UC Sand Diego’s microgrid system protects our campus from these potential grid instabilities because we can isolate ourselves from the grid, shed our non-essential electrical loads and maintain power from our cogeneration plant.

When Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a State of Emergency with a request to temporarily increase energy production and reduce demand, UC San Diego operated emergency generators to help supplement the local grid, providing 14 MW of electricity¾enough to power up to 10,500 homes. These energy-producing measures, as well as many sustainability practices that we have implemented to minimize campus energy consumption, directly help our state and local San Diego region during extreme heat events.