More Power Outages Expected as OC Battles Sweltering Heat

August 18, 2020 Updated: August 18, 2020

Sporadic power outages are expected to strike Orange County throughout the next few days as California continues to battle a record-setting heat wave.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Aug. 17 that the state’s energy demand in the coming days would likely be substantially greater than over the weekend of Aug. 15 and Aug. 16, when the power drain caused outages throughout California.

“In the next few days we are anticipating being challenged as it relates to all of these conditions that precipitated at once in this historic moment,” Newsom said during an Aug. 17 press conference.

The governor warned Californians on Aug. 17 to be prepared for more rolling blackouts over the next 72 hours—which he called “very likely”—as the state struggles to meet demand for electricity during a historic, record-breaking heat wave.

California’s Independent System Operator (CAISO)—which controls roughly 80 percent of the state’s power grid by overseeing Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and San Diego Gas & Electric—mandated a statewide “flex alert” through Aug. 19.

Residents and businesses were urged to conserve energy from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. by keeping thermostats at 78 degrees, cutting the use of major appliances, turning off lights, unplugging electrical devices, closing blinds to block sunlight, and using fans when possible.

CAISO said Aug. 17 the day’s flex alert had been effective. Statewide rolling blackouts that could have affected nearly 1 million households were averted thanks to reduced demand due to consumer conservation and cooler than expected weather, CAISO said.

“We are grateful to families and businesses across the state that answered the call to reduce electricity use during a crucial time on the grid,” said Steve Berberich, president and CEO of CAISO.

“This heat storm is not over, and we still expect exceedingly hot temperatures [on Aug. 18 and Aug. 19]. With continued help from California residents in conserving energy, much like today, we can reduce the risk of power outages.”

Excessive heat watches remain in effect throughout Orange County, and local municipalities from Laguna Beach to Irvine have encouraged residents to do their part to conserve energy.

Officials in Anaheim told The Epoch Times that the roving outages will have less impact in their Orange County city because they rely on their own utility service, Anaheim Public Utilities.

Anaheim is still a part of the state grid but relies less heavily on it, Lauren Gold, the city’s communications specialist, told The Epoch Times in an email. This will allow the region to limit outages, if necessary, to a 15-minute duration.

“We’ve been encouraging residents to conserve energy during the peak hours if they are able, and also letting them know that outages may be likely to occur and to be prepared if they do happen,” Gold said.

“We also are directing residents to our website to see if their ‘block number’ is coming up, so they can know if they’re next for outages if they are mandated.”

Anaheim City Councilwoman Denise Barnes told The Epoch Times that the city is currently monitoring the regional grid—and it appears there is sufficient capacity to handle demand, with around an 11 percent margin.

But Barnes said the city has a plan in place in case the demand for energy pushes the grid’s limits.

“If a transmission or other regional power issue occurs, we may be required to shut off power to random electrical circuits with very little notice. These controlled, rotating outages are ordered to prevent wide-scale power outages,” Barnes said.

Newsom issued a state of emergency on Aug. 14, identifying the current rising temperatures as an “Extreme Heat Event” and calling for all state agencies to operate “consistent with the direction of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.”

He signed a proclamation temporarily allowing certain utilities and energy users to “use backup energy sources to relieve pressure on the grid during peak times.”

Newsom also wrote a letter on Aug. 17 to representatives of CAISO, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Energy Commission addressing the unacceptability of the abrupt power outages that occurred on Aug. 15 and Aug. 16.

The letter called on the companies to review the assumptions and procedures that led to the stage’s first rolling blackouts since 2001.

“These blackouts which occurred without prior warning or enough time for preparation, are unacceptable and unbefitting of the nation’s largest and most innovative state,” Newsom said in the letter.

Residents of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties were among the 132,000 customers who experienced the first rotating power outage on Aug. 14. The outage lasted approximately an hour, according to Southern California Edison.

The second rotating outage lasted for 15 minutes later on Aug. 14, affecting around 70,000 customers.

CAISO first declared a “Stage 3 Electrical Emergency” on Aug. 14, initiating rotating power outages throughout the state due to high heat and increased demand. On Aug. 15, CAISO reported the additional loss of a 470-megawatt power plant and 1,000 megawatts of wind power, exacerbating the problem.

“This is not the last record-breaking historic heat dome and experience that we will have in the state, in the region, in the nation, or in our hemisphere, in our lifetime. This is exactly what so many scientists have predicted,” Newsom said.

“I am ultimately accountable, and will take responsibility to immediately address this issue and move forward to make sure that it simply never happens again here in the state of California.”


City News Service contributed to this report.