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Blackouts avoided Tuesday evening, but California heatwave continues to drive up power needs

Alex Nowinski and his dog, Greta, join others floating down the cooling water of the American River in Rancho Cordova, Calif., Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.
Rich Pedroncelli
Alex Nowinski and his dog, Greta, join others floating down the cooling water of the American River in Rancho Cordova, Calif., Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.

California power officials said there would not be rolling blackouts Tuesday night despite hitting record power demand as the state struggles under an extreme heatwave.

UPDATED: Tuesday, Sept 6, 8:05 p.m. ...

Cal ISO, the state power grid operator, announced late Tuesday that the state's peak demand hit 52,061 megawatts, breaking the record of 50,270 megawatts in 2006. Still, the agency announced around 8 p.m. it would not have to call for rolling blackouts.

Despite avoiding statewide blackouts, a number of PG&E customers in the Sacramento region, including in Davis and West Sacramento, did lose power during the early evening. The Associated Press reported that around 35,000 people in the Bay Area also lost power, with PG&E saying most were heat related.

Cal ISO declared an Energy Emergency Alert 3, one step below the need for rolling blackouts, just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

“If necessary, the grid operator can now order rotating power outages to lower demand and stabilize the system,” Cal ISO officials said in a news release. “If outages are initiated, consumers can expect to receive notifications from power providers on areas affected and time duration.”

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Cal ISO also announced an Energy Emergency Alert 2 for 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, which allows the organization to request emergency energy from its partners.

It also announced a transmission emergency for Northern California after experiencing maintenance issues with a generator in Butte County. A transmission emergency is declared for any event threatening or limiting transmission of energy across the statewide grid.

Californians are asked to reduce electricity use between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. To do so, officials recommend:

  • Setting air conditioning thermostats at 78 degrees
  • Turning off unnecessary lights
  • Closing blinds and drapes
  • Deferring using major appliances 
  • Unplugging unused electrical devices
  • Limiting opening refrigerator doors

State officials began warning Monday that rolling blackouts could be needed to protect the power grid under unprecedented demand.

"We have now entered the most intense wave of this heat wave," California ISO President and CEO Elliot Mainzer said in a press conference Monday. "Forecasted demand for Monday and Tuesday is at all time record levels, and the potential for rotating outages has increased significantly."

Mainzer said that while Californians have helped reduce energy demands over the past few days, the grid may need two to three times as much over the next two days.

"We're looking at energy deficits of 2,000 to 4,000 megawatts, which is as much as 10% of normal energy demand," he said.

Temperatures are expected to reach 110 to 115 degrees in the Sacramento Valley and foothills through Thursday, with Monday and Tuesday forecast to be the hottest. The National Weather Service cautions there is a very high risk for heat-related injuries, and for people to stay hydrated and avoid being outdoors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. if possible.

Find more tips to stay safe and reduce power use here.

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