California Issues Grid Emergency, Says Blackouts Possible

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
September 5, 2022 Updated: September 6, 2022

California officials on Labor Day issued a power grid emergency and said blackouts are possible if people don’t cut back enough on electricity usage amid hot weather.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) issued a stage one emergency alert for the grid, starting at 5 p.m. Pacific Time and lasting four hours.

Stage one emergencies are issued when “all available resources are in use and CAISO will no longer [be] able to meet expected energy requirements,” according to the agency’s system operating procedures.

CAISO is forecasting usage on Monday and Tuesday to set new records, Elliott Mainzer, president and CEO of the operator, told reporters in a briefing.

California has had flex alerts in place since Aug. 31 and residents are sacrificing by not using as much energy, officials said. But two to three times as much sacrifice is needed to avoid problems.

If 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts aren’t cut back, the deficit will lead to a stage 2 emergency. If certain circumstances unfold, a stage 3 emergency could happen, according to Mainzer.

“The potential for rotating outages has increased significantly,” he said, adding later, “Blackouts—rotating outages—are a possibility today.”

Heatwave

Californians across the state have been grappling with high temperatures, and the heatwave isn’t expected to recede soon.

The National Weather Service forecasts the high temperatures through Sept. 8 for some areas and Sept. 9 for others.

Temperatures are ranging from 100 degrees Fahrenheit to 115 degrees Fahrenheit in inland regions and from 80 degrees Fahrenheit to 99 degrees Fahrenheit in coastal areas during the day. Even at night, temperatures are largely remaining above 70 degrees Fahrenheit and even in the 90s in certain parts of the state.

While it’s typical to see hot weather in September, the temperatures “are higher than we normally see,” Sarah Rogowski, emergency response specialist and meteorologist with the service, said during the briefing.

Amid the heat and dry conditions, about 4,400 firefighters are battling 14 large fires across the state.

Turn Off Appliances

People are being asked to set their thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher after 4 p.m. They should also not use appliances such as ovens and washers, and should make sure to turn off lights in rooms in which they’re not located.

“We all can find a light in the house that we can turn off,” said Siva Gunda, commissioner of the California Energy Commission.

People who use less energy during the evening hours can be eligible for credits for their future energy bills.

Before 4 p.m., people were advised to “pre-cool” their homes, and use any appliances they may need. One recommended action was pre-cooking dinner.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.