Aug 31, 2022 - Science

California under statewide flex alert as heat wave threatens power grid

The sun shines over towers carrying electical lines on Aug. 30, 2007 in San Francisco, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California's grid operator issued a statewide "flex alert" for Wednesday and Thursday as an intense heat wave increased electrical demand and threatened available power supplies.

Driving the news: Residents are asked to voluntary conserve energy from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on both days while the excessive heat increases air condition use, per the California Independent System Operator, which runs most of the state’s electric grid.

  • Flex alerts are a call to consumers to voluntarily conserve energy when demand for power could outstrip supply, which generally occurs during heat waves.
  • Conservation could help ease the strain on the grid during critical evening hours when solar energy is diminished or unavailable.

The big picture: The heat wave is forecast to culminate with a dangerously hot Labor Day weekend across much of California, Nevada, Oregon and surrounding states in the West, and is likely to break daily, monthly and even all-time records across the region.

Context: California utility companies have executed rolling blackouts in the past, where they intentionally turn off power during windy and hot periods to prevent power lines from falling over and starting fires.

Be smart: Additional flex alerts are expected to be issued every day through Labor Day weekend and early next week as the state faces triple-digit temperatures, the grid operator warned.

  • While its not unusual to get a flex alert, it's rare to have such a prolonged heat wave.
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