Sep 5, 2022 - Energy & Environment

California power grid declares emergency amid record-breaking heat wave

Electrical transmission towers at a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) electrical substation during a heatwave in Vacaville, California, US, on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022.
Electrical transmission towers at a PG&E electrical substation in Vacaville, Calif. on Sept. 4. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

California on Monday called a power grid emergency amid a historic heat wave that is pushing the state's grid to its brink — bringing the risk of rotating outages, Bloomberg reports.

Driving the news: "We need 2 to 3 times as much conservation as we've been experiencing to keep the power on with these historic high temperatures and demand," the grid's chief executive, Elliot Mainzer, said Monday.

  • "We're looking at energy deficits at 2-4,000 megawatts, which is as much as 10% of normal electricity demand," he said.
  • "The potential for rotating outages has increased significantly," he added, noting that the forecasted demand for Monday and Tuesday is at "all-time record levels."

The big picture: The sustained heat wave in California is likely to intensify throughout the week, threatening monthly and all-time temperature records beginning today and lasting until next weekend.

  • The operator of the electrical grid has already called on residents to conserve energy, particularly from 4pm and 10pm local time.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: The California grid is under stress in part due to a long-lasting, extreme drought that has reduced hydroelectric power output, and the ongoing heat wave that is itself record-breaking.

  • Officials are warning that rolling outages are likely to be necessary as demand exceeds supply, particularly during peak times of the day.
  • Given the persistence of the heat, and the fact that it is hitting nearby states that could otherwise export power to California, continued challenges await throughout the week.

Go deeper ... Historic heat wave intensifies in the West as grid concerns mount

Go deeper