National Weather Service
FILE PHOTO: A woman jogs by power lines, as California’s grid operator urged the state’s 40 million people to ratchet down the use of electricity as a wave of extreme heat settled over much of the state. In Mountain View, Aug. 17, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The operator of the state’s power grid warned of an increasing likelihood of power shortages Tuesday unless consumers can reduce their energy use even more than they have so far, as California continued to bake under an unusually long heat wave that has produced record high temperatures.

The California Independent System Operator extended a Flex Alert until Tuesday, urging residents to take all possible measures to conserve electricity during the peak hours of 4-9 p.m. for the seventh consecutive day.

On Tuesday morning, Cal-ISO declared an Energy Emergency Alert 1, which will also be in effect from 4 to 9 p.m. The alert is a warning to utilities that all electricity resources are expected to be fully committed and some shortages are possible.

The alert also heightens the call for residents to conserve power whenever possible to avoid rolling blackouts.

“This is an extraordinary heat event we are experiencing, and the efforts by consumers to lean in and reduce their energy use after 4 p.m. are absolutely essential,” said Elliot Mainzer, the California ISO’s president and CEO.

“Over the last several days we have seen a positive impact on lowering demand because of everyone’s help, but now we need a reduction in energy use that is two or three times greater than what we’ve seen so far as this historic heat wave continues to intensify,” he added.

If energy reserves are exhausted, the ISO would instruct utilities in its service area to manage rolling blackouts. Utilities make the determination of how best to spread and rotate the outages across their service territory, with the goal of keeping them as short as possible.

“We never want to get to that point, of course,” Mainzer said, “but we want everyone to be prepared and understand what is at stake. We can’t control the weather, but we really can bend the demand curve and get through this successfully if everyone doubles down and reduces their energy use as much as possible.”

Current forecasts predict peak demand at 51,298 megawatts on Tuesday, which would break the record of 50,270 MW in 2006, according to the ISO. Wednesday’s load is forecast at 49,868 MW. The ISO reported Monday that it was projecting supply deficiencies of 400 to 3,400 MW between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Consumer and commercial demand response, including Flex Alerts, has been helping to extend tight resources over the past week, with a load reduction of around 1000 MW for each of the past several days.

During the Flex Alerts, residents are urged to take the following power-saving steps:

  • Setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher
  • Avoiding use of major appliances
  • Turning off unnecessary lights
  • Avoid charging electric vehicles

Residents are also advised to pre-cool their homes as much as possible and close blinds and drapes to keep interiors cool.

Southern California has seen temperatures soar above 100 degrees every day since last Wednesday, with little relief in sight until at least Friday.

Overnight lows are not offering much relief either, staying in the 70s and even in the low 80s in some of the hotter areas.

High temperatures continued Monday across much of San Diego County. The high reached 86 in downtown San Diego, 90 in Chula Vista and a scorching 109 in Borrego Springs.

The National Weather Service extended the excessive heat warning that has been in effect all weekend, which is now set to expire at 8 p.m. Friday.

“Strong high pressure to the north will continue the heat wave through Thursday for inland areas, with the heat continuing through Friday for the coast and valleys,” according to the NWS. “For next weekend, a weakening tropical system will bring increasing moisture, breezy conditions, and a chance of more widespread showers and isolated thunderstorms. Showers and higher humidity will linger through early next week.”

Health officials advise residents to stay indoors with air conditioning whenever possible, drink plenty of fluids and avoid hiking or other strenuous activity in extreme heat.

Children and pets should never be left in unattended vehicles for even one minute.

–City News Service



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Ellen Bullock