Californians urged to conserve electricity, prepare for potential outages as heat wave strains power grid

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As a persistent heat wave continues to scorch California, the body that runs the electrical grid for most of the state asked residents Sunday to conserve electricity in a statewide Flex Alert.

The California Independent System Operator issued the voluntary call to consumers to conserve electricity from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. for the next four days in order to prevent outages.

The ISO also told residents to prepare for the likelihood of more rotating electric outages.

The record-breaking heat wave brought triple-digit temperatures to some areas. In Death Valley, temperatures reached 130 degrees for the first time since 1913, according to the National Weather Service. ISO said the extreme heat is straining supplies and energy resources, making it difficult to meet the increased demand.

“Extended periods of heat also can cause generator equipment failures that can lead to more serious unplanned losses of power,” ISO said.

If consumers shifted energy use to morning and nighttime hours, it can help lower demand and avoid further outages.

On Friday, ISO declared a statewide Stage 3 emergency and ordered utilities to shed about 1,000 megawatts, prompting rolling blackouts across the state, the Los Angeles Times reported.

With many indoor air-conditioned locations closed due to coronavirus restrictions, many stayed home and generated intense demand for power, creating the most serious statewide energy shortage in nearly 20 years, officials told the Times.

Between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., the ISO is urging consumers to:

  • Set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees, if health permits.
  • Defer use of major appliances.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • Unplug unused electrical devices.
  • Close blinds and drapes.
  • Use fans when possible.

The heat wave is believed to be the worst in California in 14 years.

Several areas in Southern California either tied or exceeded record temperatures on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, including Woodland Hills at 112 F and Burbank at 104 F.

The heat wave, which began Friday, could last through at least Wednesday or Thursday, NWS said. 

In Los Angeles County, several cooling centers are located in L.A. and cities such as Glendale, El Monte, Burbank and Azusa, where people can get access to air conditioning and beat the heat.

A full list of centers — and their hours of operation — can be found on the county’s website here.

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