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California Braces For Possible Power Outages Amidst Heat Wave, Again
Power lines and transmission towers at sunrise in Crockett, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. On Tuesday -- just as California was preparing to plunge as many as 6 million people into darkness to save the power system from one of the worst heat waves in generations -- blazes torched tens of thousands of acres, forcing people to flee their homes and prompting California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency only days into the peak of the wildfire season.
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

California, a state of nearly 40 million people, is bracing for a round of power outages over Labor Day weekend due to an extreme heatwave, less than a month since the state experienced rolling blackouts for the first time in decades. 

The California Independent System Operator, a nonprofit organization that oversees the state’s power grid, released a statement on Twitter calling on Californians to reduce their energy consumption. The ISO subsequently called a Stage 2 warning, which means that the power grid can no longer meet energy requirements for residents.  

The ISO later lifted the Stage 2 warning without blackouts. However, the flex-alert will continue on Sunday and Monday, from 3pm-9pm, because “the grid operator is predicting an increase in electricity demand, primarily from air conditioning use” related to the extreme temperatures in the region, said the organization. 

“Consumers should always be prepared for potential power outages, both planned and unplanned during heat waves, especially in extremely high temperatures that last multiple days. Hot weather can also impact generation and transmission equipment, as it runs harder and longer with less time to cool, which can cause machinery failure,” said the organization Saturday. “High heat is also predicted throughout the West for the weekend, limiting available import energy to serve demand.”

“Consumers can actively help by shifting energy use to morning and nighttime hours. Conservation can lower demand and avoid further actions, including outages, and lessen the duration of possible power interruptions. Conservations efforts during a heatwave on Aug. 17 and 18 were key to preventing expected power outages,” the organization continued. 

Anticipating the energy grid problems for the heatwave, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) suspended power plant requirements earlier this week in an effort his office said was to “alleviate the heat-induced demands on the state’s energy grid.”

According to Politico, the recent power outages in August were the first time California has experienced rolling blackouts related to energy supply problems since 2001. However, Newsom has pledged to keep the lights on and pursue renewable energy goals in California, which, in 2018, set its sights on 100% renewable energy usage by 2045.

“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 told energy agencies in a letter last month, according to The New York Times

Severin Borenstein, an ISO board member and professor of energy economics at UC Berkeley, told the San Francisco Chronicle last month that increased usage in renewable energy sources can also contribute to shortages, as was seen in the August blackouts. 

“We have been rightly phasing out gas plants for very good reasons, but when you combine the lack of replacement for those with the crazy weather, we’re just in the situation where we’re going to be short,” said Borenstein. 

RELATED: California Power Company Says It May Have To Impose Blackouts For The Next Ten Years

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