California power grid operators issue energy alerts; Newsom declares a state of emergency


FOLSOM – California’s power grid operators on Wednesday issued an energy emergency alert (EEA) as well as a flexible alert, calling for voluntary electricity conservation due to high energy demand as a heat wave sets in over the Bay Area and the state.

Also on Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency over the western heat wave to boost energy and reduce demand. The executive order allows the state to procure additional short-term energy supply and encourages businesses and industry to limit their energy consumption.

“Mega drought, means less megawatts,” Newsom said Wednesday, referring to the state’s current drought that is impacting hydroelectric power generation.

Governor Newsom’s Live Remarks on the Western Heat Wave by
California Governor Gavin Newsom on

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) said the EEA Watch means that all available resources are committed or scheduled to be used, and energy deficiencies are expected. The watch was in effect Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The flex alert was in effect from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, urging consumers to reduce their electricity use during times when the grid is the most stressed and solar power generation is declining.

Newsom said Wednesday that the state is working with businesses to reduce energy use and change procedures during the heat wave to help manage demand.

“A good example of this would be many ships that are alongside our ports, if they can keep their engines on instead of using shore power, it would reduce demand across the entire network,” Newsom said.

The grid operator said additional alerts were possible throughout Labor Day weekend as record high temperatures were predicted across California and much of the West.

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The high demand for electricity comes mainly from the use of air conditioning during what will probably be the most widespread heat wave to date in the West this year, with temperatures 10 to 20 degrees warmer than normal in much of California. According to Cal ISO, Death Valley is currently expected to peak at 126 degrees on Saturday, which would equal the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth in the month of September.

The grid operator also warned that there could be power shortages if conditions worsen. Excessive heat warnings spread across Southern California and north into the Central Valley on Wednesday, and are expected to spread to Northern California later in the week.

California’s peak electric demand load is expected to exceed 48,000 megawatts on Monday, the highest of the year.

Severin Borenstein is an energy expert at UC Berkeley and sits on the board of Cal ISO. Borenstein told KPIX 5 that we should be able to avoid blackouts as long as everyone does their part to save energy during peak hours – late afternoon and early evening.

The main ways to reduce household energy consumption are to raise the temperature of the thermostat to 78 degrees or more, avoid using major appliances and electric car chargers during Flex Alert hours, and turning off lights.

“If we can get people to raise their thermostat settings just a few degrees, from 75 to 78, that takes a huge load off the system,” Borenstein said.

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“If weather or grid conditions worsen, ISO may issue a series of emergency notifications to access additional resources and prepare market participants and the public for potential energy shortages and the need to conserve,” Cal ISO said.

Forecasters warned of triple-digit temperatures with little relief overnight, as well as a high risk of wildfires across much of the West.

“The big weather story this week will be a prolonged and possibly record-breaking heat wave across much of the western United States associated with a strong upper-level ridge,” the National Weather Service wrote.

Katie Nielsen contributed reporting.


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