‘Flex Alert’ Issued for All of California as Power Demands Soar
After a brief respite this week, in which some Californians have seen rain for the first time in months, operators of the state’s energy grid are once again urging residents to conserve electricity as temperatures soar.
The independent California system operator on Wednesday issued what is called a “flexible alert” statewide from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time. This means that demand for electricity is expected to increase during these hours as residents turn on air conditioners and fans in an attempt to stay cool in dangerously hot and dry conditions.
So authorities are effectively begging Californians to delay using their washing machines, turn off unnecessary lights, and set their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, in order to avoid triggering blackouts.
Experts say a confluence of factors is likely to make these conservation calls more frequent and urgent.
Ed Hirs, an energy specialist at the University of Houston, said late last month that California imports more than a third of its electricity from other states. As heat waves destroy huge areas of the United States – not just California – energy supplies have been strained, leaving network operators and state officials with few options.
“Now it’s not just the reliability of the California grid that you have to worry about,” Hirs said. “It’s your neighbors”
This is what happened last year: When a heat wave hit California, electricity was cut to millions of people, in a debacle reminiscent of the energy crisis that hit the state 20 years ago.
Gov. Gavin Newsom called for an investigation and sharply criticized network operators for failing to properly plan a heat wave they had known for days to come. “Network operators were caught off guard, unable to avoid disruptive blackouts and adequately warn the public,” he wrote in a terse letter to energy officials at the time.
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