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California averts widespread blackouts as heatwave strains power grid

Power Lines
Posted at 10:50 PM, Sep 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-08 01:50:29-04

Extreme heat continues to strain California’s power grid.

The Golden State has experienced eight days in a row of statewide flex alerts.

Widespread energy conservation and emergency generators are credited with keeping the lights on.

“Even with all the planning, what we’re experiencing is really unprecedented,” said Siva Gunda, vice chair of the California Energy Commission.

Extreme heat and the threat of rolling blackouts linger over California as a record-breaking heatwave continues to strain the state’s power grid.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating coming home from work when you don’t have electricity,” said San Luis Obispo resident Sagna Matar. “I don’t know what else to do, it’s just 'sit and wait.'”

“I am glad that I don’t have an electric vehicle at this point in time, not so bad if it was a hybrid,” added SLO resident John Milton.

The state is asking Californians to not charge their electric cars and to set their thermostat to 78 degrees or higher between 4 and 9 p.m.

“We were this close to calling outages-- the state told PG&E to be on alert and we did alert 525,000 of our customers to prepare for outages,” said Carina Corral, communications representative for PG&E.

Rolling blackouts were narrowly avoided Tuesday evening after the state sent out mass alerts urging power conservation.

“They heeded that call to conserve, and I’ll tell you, our division leaders were in the emergency center, and they literally saw the demand go down like dominoes,” said Corral.

The vice chair of the California Energy Commission says that quick action by everyday people kept the lights on and avoided a repeat of rolling blackouts in 2020.

“Really when the alert hit at about 5:45, we saw approximately 2-2,400 megawatts drop in less than 20 minutes,” said Gunda. “I can say that without that response, we probably would not have been able to avoid a blackout.”

In response to the heat emergency, the California Department of Water Resources fired up four emergency generators in Northern California-- two in Roseville and two in Yuba City.

“They have the ability to ramp up to full capacity within 10 minutes,” said Tony Meyers with the DWR.

The gas-powered generators can produce enough electricity to power up to 120,000 homes to meet peak demand as the state moves forward with plans to make the full switch to renewable energy.

“We do plan to use them at least through 2028 because that’s when it’s identified that the additional renewables that the state is trying to bring on will catch up with the demand, and then these may not be necessary anymore,” added Meyers.

Tuesday’s demand for 52,000 megawatts set an all-time record in California.

PG&E is alerting customers of potential outages neighborhood-by-neighborhood.