California avoids outages after grueling heat day for grid
California avoided power outages during extreme heat as the state’s power grid operators continued to warn that unprecedented demand on power supplies could force them to periodically shut off power to some customers.
California’s independent system operator thanked residents and businesses on Wednesday for heeding another “flexible alert,” a request to reduce electricity usage during evening peak hours.
“With your help, we made it through another day without running #power outages,” Cal-ISO said on Twitter. Another flexible alert has been issued for Thursday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. as temperatures are expected to climb again.
Targeted blackouts were averted a day after miscommunication led utilities to mistakenly shut off power to customers in several California cities.
The confusion arose Tuesday afternoon between a dispatcher for the Northern California Power Agency, which owns and operates power generation facilities for 16 members, including a dozen cities, and the California Independent System Operator, as the network it runs was dangerously close to running out of power amid record high temperatures.
“That certainly concerns me,” said Elliot Mainzer, president and CEO of Cal-ISO, on Wednesday. “A lot happened on the grid for everyone last night, so we’ll double down on communication to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
With record power demand across the West, California hit its record high power consumption around 5 p.m. Tuesday with 52,061 megawatts, well above the previous record of 50,270 megawatts set on July 24, 2006. .
As residents and businesses turned on air conditioning to escape the sweltering heat in the West and solar power supplies began to decline, Cal-ISO issued a Level 3 Energy Emergency Alert to prepare utilities to trigger blackouts if demand did not decrease. The state’s legal marijuana regulatory agency has also urged businesses to turn off lights and reduce power or use backup generators.
The Northern California Power Agency said its dispatcher misinterpreted Cal-ISO’s order to prepare to cut power and immediately began the process of shutting down 46 megawatts – enough to serve about 35,000 customers – in the cities of Alameda, Lodi, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Healdsburg, and Ukiah.
It’s unclear how many customers lost power, though the agency said no outages lasted longer than an hour.
“Once the outages were triggered, our dispatcher contacted (Cal-ISO) to advise that the reduction action had been taken, and was later informed that there had been a misunderstanding on the original order,” said said the NCPA.
As the state teeters on the brink of blackouts, Governor Gavin Newsom first triggered a wireless emergency alert system at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday that sent messages to 27 million cellphones urging them to turn off or reduce non-essential power.
Within moments, there was a reduction of more than 2,000 megawatts, bringing the state “back from the brink,” Mainzer said.
“It took a really strong signal,” Mainzer said. “I think they recognize now that we mean business. It’s a real problem. And we need a real answer.
Newsom, speaking in Beverly Hills on Wednesday, said he had debated pressing that button for the past four to five days. He finally decided to test it and concluded that it was a game-changer, although he was hesitant to use it too often for fear of weakening its effectiveness. The emergency alert was not repeated on Wednesday.
Western states are grappling with one of the hottest and longest September heatwaves on record. Temperatures began to soar last week and the National Weather Service warned dangerous heat could continue through Friday, despite mild moderation.
Nearly 54 million people were on heat warnings and advisories across the West as temperature records were shattered in many regions.
California’s state capital, Sacramento, hit an all-time high on Tuesday of 116 degrees (46.7C), breaking a 97-year-old record. Salt Lake City tied its record temperature on Wednesday at 107 degrees (41.6C). The heat wave was expected to last until Saturday.
Reno, which sits just across the Nevada line along the Sierra’s eastern front at an elevation of 4,500 feet (1,372 meters), surpassed the century mark for the ninth straight day on Wednesday with its seventh record consecutive daily – hitting 104 degrees (40 C) after recording its hottest September day ever on Tuesday at 106 degrees (41.1 C), according to weather service records dating back to 1893.
Scientists say climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Over the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in state history.
In the northern plains, the unusually late heat wave peaked on Wednesday after a long series of scorching days.
Along a main thoroughfare in downtown Billings, where the temperature set a daily record high of 102 degrees (39C), Gale Spotted Bear, a native of the Blackfoot Reservation, sought shelter from the oppressive heat in the shade of a vacant building.
“This year has been hotter than hell,” Spotted Bear said, adding that homeless people can be hit the hardest if they have nowhere to go. “It’s hard here.”
Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles; Michael R. Blood in Beverly Hills; Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada; and Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, contributed to this report.