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California Grid Operator Asks Residents To Conserve Electricity To Avoid Outages During Heatwave

Power lines in Sacramento County
Andrew Nixon
Power lines in Sacramento County

California's power grid operator is asking residents to voluntarily conserve electricity Thursday to avoid outages as record-breaking heat blankets the West.

The California Independent System Operator issued a flex alert for 5-10 p.m. Thursday because torrid conditions engulfing the West have tightened energy supplies.

California ISO CEO Mark Rothleder said that in addition to California's heat, neighboring states are also experiencing heat waves, putting further strain on the grid.

"In this heatwave, the entire West is actually hot, and especially in the Southwest, so they too are also experiencing high demand and using all the resources they can," Rothleder said.

He said the agency isn't expecting flex alerts this weekend.

"Looks like [Thursday] and Friday are going to be the heaviest demand days and then it looks like conditions will start to relax in terms of the temperatures a little bit so that's when ... plus, it'll be the weekend," Rothleder said.

Last year, California ISO imposed rolling blackouts for the first time since 2001, affecting hundreds of thousands of customers throughout the state. The rolling blackouts are unrelated to power shutoffs during high wildfire conditions.

The agency recommends that during a flex alert, customers:

  • Set air conditioner thermostats to 78 degrees, if health permits
  • Avoid using dishwashers, washers, dryers, and ovens
  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Unplug or turn off electrical devices that you are not using
  • Keep blinds and drapes closed to prevent the sun from heating up the home
  • Use fans when possible

Wednesday was the first day of triple-digit heat in much of Northern California. Temperatures will be around 108 on Thursday and Friday, when an "Excessive Heat Watch" takes effect. Temperatures in some parts of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys could be as high as 112 degrees at the end of the week.

"We have some high pressure building in from the desert southwest which is basically going to lead to some pretty warm conditions across the regions, pretty widespread," said Sierra Littlefield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "What that means is we're not going to see much relief from the heat and it's going to compound over several days. It'll impact elderly, definitely kids, pets, possibly livestock as well."

She says you should stay out of the sun, drink plenty of fluids, be in an air-conditioned building and check-up on vulnerable relatives and neighbors. By Sunday, temperatures are expected to be back in the mid 90s.

"The overnight lows are also going to be on the warm side, possibly close to 70," Littlefield said. "Definitely is going to be some heat risk for the entire population so it would be wise to plan ahead and just make sure that you are prepared for some pretty warm conditions lasting over several days."

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