Historic Heatwave in California Causes “Unacceptable” Power Outages


Over the weekend California’s temperature hit record highs leading to a series of unexpected power outages and a Stage 3 Electrical Emergency leaving millions of residents in the dark.

“A Stage 3 Emergency is declared when demand begins to outpace available supply, and grid operators need to tap electricity reserves to balance the grid. Rotating power interruptions of about 470 megawatts were initiated across the state,” reported SFGate.

As the heatwave continues, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an emergency proclamation designed to free up energy capacity and reduce the need for temporary energy service disruptions. The text of the proclamation can be found here and a copy can be found here.

“We strongly urge our customers to take action and conserve their energy usage over the next few days,” said Laurie Giammona, senior vice president and chief customer officer for PG&E.

During Governor Newsom’s press conference Monday afternoon, he expressed his disapproval with the failure to notify people before the blackouts and, “You [California citizens] shouldn’t be pleased” with what is happening.

Newsom presented a series of slides saying, “You can’t control the weather, but you can prepare for these weather events and failure to predict and plan for these shortages is unacceptable.” The slides continued to explain, “California is urgently deploying resources and working to reduce energy.”

Over the weekend, state officials worked to bring more energy resources online and worked with industrial and commercial consumers to reduce energy consumption during peak hours and to increase public awareness around energy-saving measures. Newsom met with California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and senior administration officials as the state and the entire West Coast anticipates serious power shortages as the heat wave intensifies over the coming week.

After the meeting, Governor Newsom sent a letter to CAISO, the CPUC and CEC demanding an investigation into the service disruptions that occurred over the weekend and the energy agencies’ failure to predict and mitigate them.

“I write today to express my deep concern about the broadscale de-energizations experienced by too many Californians on August 14th and 15th. These blackouts, which occurred without prior warning or enough time for preparation, are unacceptable and unbefitting of the nation’s largest and most innovative state…Residents, communities and other governmental organizations did not receive sufficient warning that these de-energizations could occur. Collectively, energy regulators failed to anticipate this event and to take necessary actions to ensure reliable power to Californians. This cannot stand. California residents and businesses deserve better from their government,” said Newsom in a series of tweets.

A flex alert has been issued through Wednesday. You can sign up for alerts on flexalert.org. In addition to signing up, in an Emergency Heat Wave Proclamation, Governor Newsom recommended the following steps to remain safe:

Guidance to residents and businesses to conserve power

Yesterday, CAISO issued a statewide Flex Alert calling for voluntary electricity conservation, beginning Sunday and extending through Wednesday. The Flex Alerts are in effect from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day.

CAISO highlighted three simple actions individuals and businesses can take to reduce energy consumption:

  • Set your thermostat to 78° or higher between 3 and 10 P.M.
  • Refrain from major appliance use between 3 and 10 P.M.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances

Additional steps and guidance for individuals & businesses:

  • Adjust Your Thermostat
    • During peak hours or when you’re not home, remember to set your thermostat at 78° or higher. Setting your air conditioner 5° higher can save up to 20 percent on cooling costs.
    • Pre-cool your home by running air conditioning at 72 degrees in the early part of the day (when it is more efficient) then turn your system to 78 or higher during the hottest part of the day when demand is the highest.
    • Use smart or programmable features to help maintain energy savings when you’re not home.
  • Close Windows and Doors
    • Keep windows and doors closed to prevent the loss of cooled or heated air.
    • On summer nights, open windows to let cooler air in when safe. In the morning before the day starts to heat up, close windows and blinds to keep warm air out.
    • Tilt blinds up and close drapes and shades on windows that receive direct sunlight.
  • Smart Energy Use
    • Turn off unnecessary lighting and use task or desktop lamps with LEDs instead of overhead lights.
    • Enable “power management” on all computers and turn off when not in use.
    • Unplug phone charges, power strips (those without a switch) and other equipment when not in use. Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.
  • Access and Functional Needs
    • Check in on neighbors, friends and family who may be at risk.
    • Charge medical devices in off hours and have back up plan for if the power goes out.
    • In addition to traditional community support channels, individuals with access and functional needs should reach out to local government for assistance.
    • Contact local utilities companies if you are dependent on power for assistive devices.
  • Major Appliance Use
    • Postpone using major appliances like the oven, dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer until cooler times of the day to avoid heating up your home.
    • Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when full. Wait until after 9 p.m. to use these and other major appliances.
    • When possible, wash clothes in cold water. About 90 percent of the energy used in a clothes washer goes to water heating.
  • Clean or Replace Your Filters
    • A dirty filter forces your air conditioner and furnace to work harder, wasting money, using more energy or natural gas.
  • Adjust Your Water Heater
    • Turn your water heater down to 120° or the “normal” setting. Water heating accounts for about 13 percent of home energy costs.
  • Conservation Programs
      • Consider participating in your utility’s demand response program. These voluntary programs are short, temporary measures to reduce energy consumption when power supplies are critically low and a Flex Alert has been issued. Contact your local electric utility to learn about your utility’s program and incentives they may offer to participate.

You can watch Newsom’s full press conference here.

 

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