Power system operators in California issued a state of emergency Monday to prevent widespread blackouts on Labor Day evening, but later rescinded the warning.
However, the threat of blackouts remained. On Tuesday, as employees re-entered the workplace, it was expected that electricity usage would reach an all-time high.
The electricity grid operator, the Independent System Operator, issued a Stage 2 emergency alert at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, an indication that supplies were becoming tight as temperatures hit 110 degrees and beyond.
The warning was lifted at 9:00 p.m.
Had the ISO issued a Stage 3 alert, the first blackouts in two years might have occurred.
On Monday night, the ISO added to the chaos by declaring a “transmission emergency” for all of Northern California, citing the need to “relieve overloads in the Palermo region” in Butte County.
Earlier today, Elliot Mainzer, president and chief executive of the ISO, remarked, “We have now entered the most intense phase of this heat wave.” A greater number of potential rotational outages exist.
According to Mainzer, the grid might face “energy shortfalls of 2,000 to 4,000 megawatts, which is as much as 10% of average electrical demand.” As many as 3 million homes might lose power if that happens.
As temperatures in inland California were predicted to reach 110 degrees or higher, the Flex Alert, a call for voluntary conservation for a sixth straight evening, was in place from 4 to 10 p.m., an hour longer than usual, highlighting the increasingly precarious situation on the grid.
Mainzer reported that Californians have banded together to combat the heat wave by cutting their energy use by about 1,000 megawatts on Saturday and Sunday evenings. This is enough power to provide over 750,000 homes.
But he also stated that the conservation efforts would need to quadruple or triple if the city was to make it through Labor Day without incident.
Monday evening’s peak demand for power was predicted to be 48,961 megawatts, which would have occurred about midday. However, by 6 p.m., it had already exceeded expectations by several megawatts.
A high demand of 51,144 megawatts on Tuesday threatened to shatter a 16-year-old record for energy consumption in California.
Vice Chairman of the California Energy Commission Siva Gunda: “We are on razor thin margins.”
There was a mad dash by the government to keep the power on. Department of Water Resources gas-fired power generators in Roseville and Yuba City were activated for the first time after being approved by the state last year. It was enough to power nearly 120,000 houses.
Gunda added that industries and other entities can now use backup generators that would have been banned under previous air-pollution standards thanks to an emergency order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week. To relieve strain on the power system, “many of our participants can turn on their (generators),” he explained.
Customers on so-called interruptible rates, who benefit from price reductions but are more likely to experience power outages should supplies run low, are at risk.
Erin Mellon, a spokeswoman for Newsom, said that the administration has been calling large commercial and industrial enterprises to persuade them to reduce their usage in order to prevent blackouts.
She described the process as “dialing for megawatts,” which is a quite unflattering term.
Utility companies that aren’t part of the ISO’s grid network and hence aren’t as likely to experience blackouts if they occur, such the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD), could possibly be of assistance. Mainzer noted that, during peak demand periods, many non-ISO utilities often pool electricity supplies.
According to Mainzer, “there’s an expectation among the utilities.” They’ve been partners for quite some time.
On Monday, SMUD faced near-record power needs. Lindsay VanLaningham, SMUD’s spokesperson, said that the company will have to “make a gametime decision” on whether or not it will be able to share power with the ISO’s statewide system. We will do so if we have any surplus.
SMUD, Sacramento’s municipal utility, requested that customers raise their thermostat settings to 78 degrees Monday night in an effort to conserve energy, in line with statewide recommendations. On Monday night, VanLaningham said it appeared like SMUD would be able to prevent any rolling outages.
The state of California has issued a Flex Alert, advising residents to pre-cool their homes and then raise the temperature to 78 degrees. Heavy appliance use is discouraged as well.
Mainzer acknowledged that “we know this has been a tough trip” and that “it is about to get considerably more difficult.”
With the National Weather Service’s extension of its excessive heat warning until Thursday night, the capital region can expect temperatures to remain well over 100 degrees for the majority of the week.
The heat is predicted to maintain ozone levels harmful for sensitive groups, therefore air quality experts have issued the fourth Spare the Air notice of the year for Monday. There had been only one warning day in the region all of 2022 prior to the heat wave.