Officials with California’s power grid operator said Thursday that while they are more prepared for this weekend’s heat wave than they were in mid-August, a scorching end to the summer could require additional flex alerts in the coming weeks.
Eric Schmitt, vice president of operations for the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), acknowledged that California’s summer weather generally extends into September, particularly in the southern part of the state. “Many of our seasonal records are set in the September timeframe,” Schmitt said. “We obviously are going to have heavy loads this weekend and until we clear September, we could have other tight, demanding days.”
The CAISO issued a flex alert Thursday for Labor Day weekend, citing temperatures that are expected to be between 10 and 20 degrees higher than normal and could generate increased energy demand and air conditioner usage.
The state’s power grid faced a similarly strained demand for energy in mid-August, when a heat wave blanketed the West Coast for several days. “We rely on what is a limited set of capacity in California and the West and when you get these high load levels, it’s stretching that capacity,” CAISO Vice President of Market Policy and Performance Mark Rothleder said.
Some households across the state faced power outages due to increased demand at the outset of the heat wave, but subsequent days saw a significant drop in energy use during peak hours, which CAISO officials said prevented rolling blackouts in large swaths of the state.
“The response we got, especially on Aug. 17 and 18 was unprecedented,” CAISO Director of Real Time Operations John Phipps said. “We saw an impact of thousands of megawatts that made those few days much more manageable and so just very grateful for that help.”
To conserve energy, people are advised to set their air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees, avoid using unnecessary lights and major household appliances, close blinds and drapes and use a fan when possible. Updates on the flex alert over the weekend can be found at the CAISO’s flexalert.org website.