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Manager of state power grid warns heat could drive up power demand

With hot conditions persisting in Southern California and across the state, the manager of California's power grid issued a heat bulletin Wednesday advising residents that the continued high temperatures could drive up energy demand and strain the electrical system.

The California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) insisted that "at this time, the grid is stable," but it noted that incessant high heat will drive up demand for power.

"As the heat persists, it's important to emphasize that events that linger for many consecutive days can overtax generators running at high outputs for long periods, causing outages and reduced generation," according to Cal- ISO. "Wildfires are also active in many areas of the state, which can pose a threat to generators and transmission lines. And the hotter weather is now extending to other areas of the West, which could limit the potential for importing energy."


Cal-ISO officials noted that Thursday is likely to be the hottest day of the week across the state, with even some coastal areas in Southern California potentially reaching 90 degrees, while areas such as Lancaster and Palmdale could reach up to 113 and Palm Springs as high as 120 degrees.

The system operator noted that increased electricity demand is anticipated for most of the state Wednesday and Thursday. If the state's power grid becomes strained, or there's an indication it could become strained, Cal- ISO issues a series of emergency notifications, beginning with the most common type — a Flex Alert.

Flex Alerts are issued as a call to residents to voluntarily cut back their energy use to help reduce strain on the power system, particularly during peak heat hours in the late afternoon and early evening. If demand continues to outpace supplies, the agency could move through a series of emergency alerts, potentially building to rolling outages.

Flex alerts are usually issued a day in advance and call on consumers’ help, to avoid overwhelming the system.

"That could be as easy as... unplugging your phone, or unplugging your laptop. Not washing dishes during peak hours. So between 4 and 9 PM. Everything that we can do to conserve energy is going to help us prevent flex alerts is going to help us prevent the possibility of rotating outages later on," said Alex Welling with San Diego Gas & Electric.


He says another thing that can help is charging electric vehicles overnight instead of in the daytime.

While no flex alerts have been issued so far this season, that could change at any moment, "The statewide grid is interconnected, meaning, if something happens up North it can impact us down South. So the power doesn't just travel from one place, it travels everywhere. So we are dependent on what happens in Northern California, Central California, the coast to the deserts."

Welling says wildfires are fast changing events that could trigger flex alerts or outages.

They are urging customers to be prepared for any heat related events.

"We want to make sure that customers have the tools and resources. So one - they know how to conserve power. But two- in case there are outages, what do you do in that type of situation? So making sure that you have an emergency plan in place with your family, making sure you have backup power. Your devices are charged, you have water, food... While you wait for us to be able to go ahead and safely and quickly restore power as soon as possible," he said.

And with California’s growing reliance on electricity and cleaner energy, Welling says several green energy projects are in the works to keep up with the demand.

No flex alerts are planned at the moment but Cal-ISO is asking all Californians to stay prepared and alert if conservation or rotating outages are needed.