California electric grid managers hope conservation prevents rolling blackouts during heat wave


California’s electric grid operators are urging residents to save as much power as possible for five hours on Thursday to ward off rolling blackouts as a heat wave bakes the western United States.

The California Independent System Operator, a nonprofit that manages most of the state’s grid, has issued a Flex Alert calling for voluntary power conservation from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday.

The alert, the first of the year, asks residents to reduce demand for electricity by raising their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher and not using major appliances during those hours.

Officials at the system operator are projecting a modest supply shortfall of about 300 megawatts, and they’re cautiously optimistic that they can avoid rolling blackouts like those the state briefly endured over two days last August.

“As we know, Californians have stepped up many times before when asked to pitch in, and I’m confident they will do so (again),” Elliot Mainzer, the system operator’s CEO, told reporters Wednesday afternoon on a conference call.

The current heat wave is not as extreme as the one that led to rotating outages last year, namely because temperatures aren’t as high along the coast, officials said. Still, grid managers are grappling with a challenge they faced last year — a reduced ability to import power from other states facing the same punishing temperatures. California’s hydroelectric facilities are also strained by the severe drought gripping the state.

Regulators have taken steps to prevent a repeat of last summer’s rolling blackouts, the state’s first such power cuts in nearly two decades. In February, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered large power companies to secure more energy supplies by this summer. And in March, the commission gave the companies greater ability to cut demand when the grid is stressed by authorizing a new program in which utilities can call on certain energy resources to reduce load for as much as five hours at a time.





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2021-06-17 01:07:30

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