A Do-or-Die Day For California’s Power Grid

PUBLISHED SEP 6, 2022 12:00 A.M.
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A Fresno resident uses an umbrella to shield herself from the sun on Aug. 30, 2022, as a heat wave descended over California.

A Fresno resident uses an umbrella to shield herself from the sun on Aug. 30, 2022, as a heat wave descended over California.   Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local


Today, California’s power grid is poised to face its biggest test of the summer so far as a record-setting heat wave continues to boil the drought-parched, fire-stricken state.

As residents crank up their air conditioners to deal with yet another day of triple-digit temperatures, peak demand could shoot past 51,000 megawatts — surpassing the record of 50,270 megawatts set in 2006, the state’s electric grid operator said Monday.

And, unless Californians double or triple their current conservation efforts, the state’s energy supply could fall between 400 and 3,400 megawatts short of demand between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., resulting in a repeat of 2020’s rolling blackouts, warned Elliot Mainzer, president and CEO of the California Independent System Operator. (The state also risked possible power shutoffs Monday evening, but ultimately avoided them.)

Today marks the seventh straight day that Californians have been under a statewide Flex Alert, which calls for voluntary energy conservation between 5 and 9 p.m. The timeframe was extended to 10 p.m. on Monday.

The grid operator also declared a Stage 1 energy emergency alert for Monday and today, which signals that all resources have already been committed or are expected to be used and that deficiencies are forecasted. Stage 2, which was implemented Monday evening, triggers additional urgency measures — such as activating emergency gas generators — and Stage 3 could mean rolling blackouts.

Newsom — whose administration has been calling big commercial firms and asking them to limit their energy use, according to the Sacramento Bee — on Friday expanded the emergency order he issued last week to help free up additional supplies. This angered some environmental justice advocates, who argued that some of its provisions — including allowing for expanded use of backup generators — would disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities.

Read more of A Do-or-Die Day For California’s Power Grid’ on CalMatters.

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