Third Flex Alert issued in less than a week
As of Tuesday, the state’s electrical grid status was “normal,” according to the California Independent System Operator’s website.
The electrical demand on Tuesday sat around 30,000 to 35,000 megawatts, and the available capacity of the grid was around 50,000 megawatts.
That being said, on Monday, CAISO called a third Flex Alert in less than a week, asking Californians to conserve energy to reduce strain on the electrical grid.
The organization said the high temperatures on the West Coast, along with the Bootleg Fire burns in Oregon, have the potential to strain the system. The fast-moving fire tripped off transmission lines last Friday and again on Saturday, limiting electricity flow from the Pacific Northwest to California and other states, according to a news release from CAISO.
Power supplies to the CAISO territory — 80% of the state — have been reduced by as much as 3,500 MW because of the fire.
Suzanne Hosn, a spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., told the News-Press that many grid operators are monitoring this fire because it threatens the California Oregon Intertie, otherwise known as Path 66. The intertie is a corridor of three parallel 500kV power lines that connect the power grids of Oregon and California. The three lines are owned by PG&E, along with PacifiCorp, the Western Area Power Administration and the Transmission Agency of Northern California.
PG&E officials activated the utility’s Emergency Operations Center to monitor the situation and manage any eventualities, according to national media reports.
“We are optimizing our hydroelectric generation this summer to be able to generate when it’s most needed during peak hours,” Ms. Hosn said. “We are also increasing the efficiency of our natural gas unit to increase output on the hottest days.”
On top of the high fire season, Californians have been turning up their air conditioners to weather the heat wave.
In Santa Barbara, the forecast shows a slight dip in temperatures, with highs in the mid- to low 70s, for the rest of the week. But temperatures are predicted to climb again after the weekend, back into the high 70s and low 80s.
The Santa Ynez Valley’s temperatures are nearing the 90s as well as the mid- to high 80s.
“We should stay relatively seasonal for the most part, at least through the weekend, with a little bit of heat up by late in the weekend. Next week will start warming up,” Joe Sirard, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, told the News-Press.
In addition, he said conditions will remain “fairly muggy and fairly sticky” into the weekend, but humidities will lower toward the end of the weekend.
While residents may want to beat the mugginess with their A/C units, during a Flex Alert, electric companies ask customers to set their thermostat to 78 degrees when they are home and 85 degrees or “off” when they’re away. Other tips to keep cool amid a Flex Alert include cooking with a grill outside or microwave, shutting off lights when leaving a room and closing blinds.
The peak hours of energy consumption in the state are 4 to 9 p.m., so many guidelines from electrical companies are for that five-hour period. Before 4 p.m., companies like SoCal Edison recommend: “pre-cooling” homes or lowering air-conditioning thermostats; charging electric vehicles; charging mobile devices and laptops; running dishwashers, washing machines and other major appliances; and setting pool pumps to run early in the morning or late at night.
Ben Gallagher, a spokesperson for SoCal Edison, told the News-Press that it can be little things that save a lot of energy too, such as trying to open and reopen the refrigerator less often. He added that plugging electronics into power strips and then turning the power strip off when it’s not being used is another little thing that could go a long way.
“Between those hours of 4 and 9 p.m. … everybody is starting to use a lot of energy at that time, so the more that we can reduce that — especially during a period when it’s really hot out — the more it reduces stress on the grid and allows us to have enough supply to meet the increasing demand,” Mr. Gallagher said.
Ms. Hosn said PG&E customers can sign up for a time-of-year rate plan, which incentivizes shifting and reducing energy usage during the peak hours. PG&E also offers personalized rate plans that allow consumers to compare rates.
However, she said that as the drought, fire and summer seasons all bring their consequences with them to California, the best thing residents can do is be prepared.
“That’s probably one of the best pieces of advice, and not just for peak summer days, but to be prepared for an emergency,” the PG&E spokesperson said. “Make sure that you have flashlights, working batteries, that you’ve developed a plan and are prepared before any circumstance … We encourage people to have a plan for heat, and above all else, stay safe.”