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Amid heat, California issues urgent call for power but avoids blackouts

Pressured by triple-digit temperatures in a grueling heatwave, California’s power grid operators warned of potential power outages on Tuesday but never took the leap.

California’s Independent System Operator, which oversees the state’s power grid, declared Energy Emergency Alert 3 at 5:17 p.m., which is the level at which power outages could be ordered.

Californians received an emergency alert on their phones with an audible alarm and an urgent call to save energy.

At 8 p.m., the system operator, or ISO, tweeted that it had ended the emergency alert. A spokesperson for the operator said no rotating outages had been ordered.

“Consumer conservation has played a big role in protecting the reliability of the power system. Thanks, California! the ISO tweeted.

Tuesday had been predicted as a day of peak demand during a heat wave that has scorched parts of California since last week.

And it was: The system operator said Tuesday night that the state set a peak power demand record of 52,061 megawatts, surpassing the previous record of 50,270 megawatts on July 24, 2006.

Tuesday marked the first time an Energy Emergency Alert 3 has been issued since a heat wave began to affect large parts of the state last week – although calls for conservation called “ flexible alerts” have been launched every day since August 31.

Tuesday’s high power consumption came on a day when nearly the entire state was under an excessive heat warning.

Before the emergency alert was issued, Pacific Gas & Electric warned earlier Tuesday that 525,000 customers could suffer power outages if ordered.

The last time the ISO ordered blackouts was in August 2020. Before that, the last time blackouts were ordered in California was in 2001.

There were other power outages in the state on Tuesday, including some heat-related.

About 50,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers in the San Francisco Bay Area were without power as of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, utility spokesman JD Guidi said, but those were not power outages and were mainly related to heat.

The most common heat-related failure is transformer failure, he said. Transformers typically cool at night, but during heat spells temperatures can stay high and fail.

Downtown Sacramento reached 116 degrees on Tuesday, Bakersfield reached 113 degrees and it was 93 degrees in downtown Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures of 107 degrees were recorded near Hemet in Riverside County, where firefighters were battling the Fairview Fire, which broke out on Monday and killed two people.

Further north, San Jose hit 109 degrees, Napa was 114 degrees and Santa Rosa hit 115 degrees, the weather service said.

More than 44 million people were under excessive heat warnings Tuesday across California and parts of Nevada and Arizona, according to the weather service. Another 13 million people were under heat advisories that also covered parts of Idaho and Utah.

Denis Romero contributed.


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