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Blistering temperatures continue to pummel California and San Diego County, pushing the state's energy grid to the brink of outages. Stock photo
Blistering temperatures continue to pummel California and San Diego County, pushing the state's energy grid to the brink of outages. Courtesy photo
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Blistering heat wave strains California energy grid, risking outages

REGION — The California Independent System Operator, California’s electrical grid operator, issued another Flex Alert and declared a statewide “Energy Emergency Alert 3” tonight due to extreme power demand amid the state’s blistering heat wave.

The level-three alert is one step away from ordering rotating power outages and calls for maximum conservation efforts while warning that blackouts could be imminent if residential and business power demands continue to stress the electrical grid. 

“Today the demand for power on the California grid is expected to be at an all-time high,” Elliot Mainzer, chief executive officer of CAISO said in a YouTube post. “We’ve entered what is going to be the most challenging day of this unprecedented heat wave. Last night electricity demand hit just over 49,000 megawatts.”

Tonight, electricity demand is currently forecasted at more than 52,000 MW, an all-time high for the grid. As the state faces the hottest day in this heat wave, which began in the last week of August, grid conditions are expected to worsen.

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.

Mainzer said 3,300 MW of battery storage, consumer demand reductions and emergency reserves played a significant role in keeping up with demand on Monday. 

However, CAISO came very close to issuing an Energy Emergency Level 3, which would have signaled the need for rotating outages. 

As for today, at least 2,000 MW of backup generation is needed to avoid outages. Reserve power, generators and assistance from utilities inside and outside of the state also played a role in keeping the power flowing.

“Tonight, we are going to have to dig even deeper,” Mainzer said. “I know this has been a very long heat wave and I’m asking you to do even more, but please stick with us and don’t use any more power than is absolutely necessary.”

If the situation worsens, CAISO will order utility companies to begin rotating power outages to maintain grid stability. The rotating outages would help alleviate the situation and potentially avoid cascading blackouts.

According to CAISO, the rotating outages are kept as brief as possible, and utilities rotate them through their customers, so no specific area has a prolonged power outage. The utilities, meanwhile, determine how to best spread and rotate the outages with the goal of limiting their duration.

CAISO, along with San Diego Gas & Electric, are calling for conservation efforts to begin immediately. Those include pre-cooling homes prior to 4 p.m. After 4 p.m., CAISO said residents should set thermostats to 78 degrees, avoiding running major appliances and turn off unnecessary lights.

The state’s grid operator has previously said to avoid charging electric vehicles and devices.

SDG&E also recommends using surge protectors in case of a power surge and knowing how to manually open garage doors and gates. If outages come, check the breaker and turn it back on, report any outages, unplug TVs, appliances and electronics, use flashlights and refrain from opening the refrigerator or freezer.

According to SDG&E, the power grid narrowly avoided outages, informing customers Monday evening that CAISO did not order the utility to initiate rolling power outages today “as a last resort to help maintain grid stability,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.

“However, due to continuing high heat and energy demand forecasted over the next several days, SDG&E may be required to initiate rolling power outages that would impact your home or business for about 60 minutes.”  

City News Service contributed reporting to this story.

1 comment

JohnEldon September 10, 2022 at 3:28 pm

We are not going to be able to achieve carbon neutrality in our energy system without two things too many “environmentalists” reject: nuclear power and carbon sequestration.

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