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California power grid operators issue energy alerts; Newsom declares state of emergency

California power grid operators issue energy alerts; Newsom declares state of emergency
California power grid operators issue energy alerts; Newsom declares state of emergency 02:04

FOLSOM -- Operators of California's power grid issued an Emergency Energy Alert (EEA) Watch as well as a Flex Alert Wednesday, calling for voluntary electricity conservation because of the high energy demand as a heat wave settles over the Bay Area and the state.

Also on Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency over the western heat wave to increase energy and reduce demand. The executive order allows the state to procure additional short-term energy supply and encourages businesses and industry to restrict energy use.

"Mega drought, means less megawatts," Newsom said Wednesday, referring to the state's ongoing drought impacting the production of hydroelectric power.

Governor Newsom Live Remarks on Western Heat Wave by California Governor Gavin Newsom on YouTube

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) said the EEA Watch means all available resources are committed or forecasted to be in use, and energy deficiencies are expected. The watch was in effect Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  

The Flex Alert was in effect from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, which urges consumers to reduce use of electricity from during those times when there is most stress on the grid and solar energy production is declining.   

Newsom said Wednesday the state was working with businesses to reduce energy use and change procedures during the heat wave to help manage the demand.

"A good example of that would be a lot ships that are along our ports, if they can keep their engines on as opposed to using shoreside power, that would reduce demand on the entire grid," said Newsom.

The grid operator said additional alerts were possible throughout the Labor Day weekend as record-setting temperatures were forecast across California and much of the West.

KPIX 5 First Alert Weather: Current Conditions, Forecasts, Alerts For Your Area

The high electricity demand is primarily from air conditioning use during what's likely to be the most extensive heat wave so far in the West this year, with temperatures 10-20 degrees warmer than normal in much of California. According to the Cal ISO, Death Valley is currently forecast to peak at 126 degrees on Saturday, which would tie the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth in the month of September.

The grid operator also warned that there could be energy shortages if conditions worsen. Excessive-heat warnings expanded to all of Southern California and northward into the Central Valley on Wednesday, and were predicted to spread into Northern California later in the week.

The peak load for electricity demand in California is projected to exceed 48,000 megawatts on Monday, the highest of the year.

Severin Borenstein is an energy expert at UC Berkeley and sits on the board of governors for Cal ISO. Borenstein told KPIX 5 that we should be able to avoid blackouts as long as everyone does their part to conserve energy during peak use times – in the late afternoon and early evening.

The primary ways to reduce household energy use are to raise thermostat temperatures to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using major appliances and electric car chargers during Flex Alert hours, and turn off lights.

"If we can get people to increase their thermostat settings just a few degrees, turning it from 75 to 78, that takes a huge load off the system," Borenstein said.

More conservation tips can be found at

ALSO READ: Where to find cooling centers in the Bay Area during heat wave

"If weather or grid conditions worsen, the ISO may issue a series of emergency notifications to access additional resources and prepare market participants and the public for potential energy shortages and the need to conserve," Cal ISO said.

Forecasters warned of triple-digit temperatures with little overnight relief, as well as elevated risk of wildfires in much of the West.

"The big weather story this week will be a prolonged and possibly record heat wave building across much of the Western U.S. associated with a strong upper level ridge," the National Weather Service wrote.

Katie Nielsen contributed reporting.

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