Even if your power wasn't shut off Wednesday night due to high winds and fire danger, you may still lose power Thursday if rolling blackouts are deemed necessary due to the heatwave and a spike in power usage.
The California Independent System Operator (ISO) issued a Flex Alert Thursday starting at 3 p.m. and extending until 10 p.m. — the period of time when the state's energy grid is most stressed due to declining solar-generated power and increased consumer power usage. Residents across the state are being urged to conserve power between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., to not run air conditioners and just use fans when possible, and to not run appliances.
"With high temperatures in the forecast, the power grid operator predicts an increase in electricity demand, primarily from air conditioning use," the ISO said in a late Wednesday release. "The temperatures are above normal for this time of year, creating an anticipated shortage in energy supply in the late afternoon hours through the evening."
Previous Flex Alerts have occurred this year in August, September, and October 1, but rolling blackouts were only deemed necessary during the August 14-15 alert. As previously reported, some of those blackouts may not even have been necessary were it not for an error by PG&E — a miscommunication to a plant in Fresno to power down below its capacity, causing the grid to become overloaded.
A separate report released last week by the ISO, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and the California Energy Commission (CEC) suggested that the root cause of the August 14 blackout was threefold, involving a climate-change-induced heat storm event in addition to issues with energy procurement from outside the state, and the state's ongoing transition to clean energy that has not kept pace with energy demand.
"In transitioning to a reliable, clean and affordable resource mix, resource planning targets have not kept pace to lead to sufficient resources that can be relied upon to meet demand in the early evening hours," the report said. "This makes balancing demand and supply more challenging. These challenges were amplified by the extreme heat storm."
The August 14 heat storm was referred to by CPUC President Marybel Batjer as a "one-in-35-year event that, with climate change, is unfortunately becoming more common." In a statement last week, Batjer said, "We will absolutely adjust our planning, procurement, and market policies to meet these changing circumstances and ensure our energy future is clean, reliable, and affordable for all Californians."
Procuring more energy supply isn't likely to happen before next year, however, which means heatwaves like the one happening today and tomorrow may result in more blackouts.
Photo: Lukas Bato