PALM DESERT, Calif. -

The official start of summer is a little more than a week away and the heat is already on here in the Coachella Valley.  People cooling their homes puts a strain on the state's power grid, which may be taxed this summer, now that Southern California Edison has announced the permanent closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.  It presents a lot of questions for the major power provider moving forward as it looks for a long-term solution. "Having it offline this year and with the unexpected heat wave possibly this summer, there could be challenges," said Steven Conroy, Edison director of communications.

Challenges like filling the void left by the nuclear plant, which provided power to about 1.4 million homes.  Edison says building a new facility is a long-term solution, but for now, it continues to contract with others like the recently opened CPV Sentinel power plant in Desert Hot Springs.  "It is a plant that provides not only power to the grid but power to the Coachella Valley the way the grid operates," said Conroy.  "So it's an important facility, and again one that'll be important this summer."

SCE's spent more than $500 million on replacement power since San Onofre first closed in January 2012.  Whether that will raise rates for customers, it is still unknown, but that's not the only issue. Edison's also dealing with an early wildfire season and its effect on transmission lines.  Due to flare ups like these, SCE encourages customers to stay informed.  "We want to educate our customers, in addition to expectations that outages are possible, but how can they prepare," said Jennifer Cusack, a local spokesperson.

You can also help prevent a loss of power by finding other ways to stay cool and save energy.  To incentivize this, SCE offers money saving programs like the "Summer Discount Plan" and "Save Power Days."  "In addition to saving on your bill, because of the power you did not use, we're also avoiding rotating outages or unplanned outages because the summer time does stress our system," said Cusack.

For more information go to www.sce.com or call 800-477-6620.