The operator of the state’s power grid warned of an increasing likelihood of power shortages Monday and 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 declared an Energy Emergency Alert 2 for 5-9 p.m. Monday, signaling to utilities and consumers that energy deficiencies are expected, and triggering deployment of emergency tools designed to keep supply and demand balanced during extreme conditions, potentially freeing up to a few thousand megawatts of additional resources.
The ISO also 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.
“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 conditions continue to deteriorate, an EEA 3 may be declared. If reserves are then 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 51,145 megawatts on Tuesday, which would break the record of 50,270 MW in 2006, according to the ISO. Wednesday’s load is forecast at 50,002 MW. The ISO is 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; and
— 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 during Monday’s Labor Day holiday reached 109 degrees in Hemet, 110 in downtown Riverside and 112 in Palm Springs.
“Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities,” the National Weather Service said.
The extreme heat and low humidity are also ratcheting up wildfire dangers, with a fast-moving brush fire breaking out just east of Hemet on Monday afternoon. The Fairview Fire quickly grew to 600 acres and prompted evacuation orders as some structures appeared to burn.
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.
Cooling centers for Riverside County can be found at www.capriverside.org/cool-centers.