More blackouts? California grid manager warns of power shortage as major heatwave looms

BY DALE KASLERJUNE 15, 2021 01:09 PM, UPDATED JUNE 15, 2021 02:46 PM

With a horrific heatwave set to bear down on much of California, the manager of the state’s electricity grid warned of potential shortages this week, raising the specter of another round of rolling blackouts.

The California System Operator said it expects the demand for power to exceed supplies as temperatures soar past 100 degrees toward the end of the week. The problem is expected to be at its worst Thursday night, when the gap is forecast to reach 3,374 megawatts — enough to power more than 2.6 million homes.

The National Weather Service said temperatures could hit 110 or higher Thursday in the Sacramento area, and city officials have said they plan to open cooling shelters to protect the vulnerable.

The heat wave could find California in a repeat of last August, when the state endured two consecutive nights of rolling blackouts as temperatures surpassed 110 degrees. The state fell short of electricity in part because solar-energy supplies dropped off when the sun went down — but temperatures didn’t fall quickly enough to reduce demand.

Barely a month ago, the ISO said it believed it could avoid blackouts this summer, thanks to an influx of new power capacity — but acknowledged that the margin for error could get squeezed if a heatwave blanketed the entire West. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen this week, with triple-digit weather expected as far as the Canadian border. That means California might not be able to import as much power as it normally does.

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The 2020 blackouts were the first in California since the 2001 energy crisis, which was blamed on power manipulation by companies like Enron. The outages raised questions about the state’s increasing reliance on solar and other renewable energy sources — which now make up about one third of California’s supply — but Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state won’t retreat from its commitment to green energy as climate change worsens. State law says the grid must be 100% carbon-free by 2045, and Newsom has talked about speeding up that timetable.

In preparation for this week’s hot weather, power generators and transmission-line operators have already been ordered to defer scheduled maintenance through Friday night, in order to keep as much electricity flowing as possible.

The grid manager said it might issue Flex Alerts throughout the week, calling on consumers to voluntarily turn thermostats as high as 78 degrees and avoid using major appliances. Other “demand response” programs, in which customers get financial incentives to spur conservation, could come into play as well.

Separately, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. urged its customers to turn up their thermostats, turn off unnecessary lights open refrigerators as rarely as possible (the average fridge is opened 33 times a day, the utility said).

PG&E also told customers to have flashlights, radios and fresh batteries available in case of a blackout. (Click to Source)

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