Flex Alert issued for California, so will there be blackouts?

ByAlix Martichoux and Stephanie Sierra KGO logo
Friday, September 4, 2020
Flex Alert issued for CA, so will there be blackouts?
California ISO issued a statewide Flex Alert Thursday preparing to conserve power ahead of what's projected to be an excessively hot holiday weekend.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California ISO issued a Flex Alert for the state amid an approaching heat wave, asking Californians to conserve power in an effort to avoid rolling blackouts over Labor Day weekend.

The Flex Alert is in effect Saturday through Monday, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. each day.

With high temperatures expected between 95 and 110 degrees around the Bay Area - and even hotter elsewhere in the state - there's expected to be a greater demand for power, with everyone staying indoors and blasting the AC. Overnight temperatures are also supposed to be about 10 degrees higher than normal, according to California ISO, which doesn't allow infrastructure the time it needs to fully cool down.

Governor Gavin Newsom even signed an emergency proclamation to free up additional energy capacity amid extreme temperatures across California. The proclamation permits power plants to generate more power by suspending certain permitting requirements, helping to alleviate the heat-induced demands on the state's energy grid.

RELATED: Major heat wave coming to Bay Area for Labor Day weekend: Here's how hot it will be

Holiday heatwave: It's going to be hot in the Bay Area over Labor Day Weekend! Dangerous heat on Sunday and excessive heat on Monday is prompting a Statewide Flex Alert.

That's why state officials and utility companies like PG&E are asking people to reduce energy use whenever possible during the peak afternoon and evening hours. If the projected power use exceeds the state's power grid, PG&E may be forced to shut off power to neighborhoods using rolling blackouts, as was deemed necessary in the heat wave we saw in early August.

"As of Thursday morning, CAISO has given no indication of a need for rotating outages like those experienced by Californians last month," said PG&E in a press release. That being said, heat-related power outages could still occur if equipment gets overheated, a spokesperson told ABC7 News.

California ISO said in a Thursday news briefing that at this point, it's too soon to say whether projected energy use will exceed the grid's capacity. They aren't forecasting blackouts at the moment, but that could change as we get closer to the weekend.

"We are not forecasting any blackouts," said Eric Schmidt, the agency's operations manager. "But, anything could happen."

Schmidt said his team will have a better idea closer to Saturday to assess supply and demand.

"We could be short at certain times of the day," he said. "That's why conservation is crucial."

VIDEO: What is a Flex Alert?

So a Flex Alert has been issued in California amid a heat wave, but what exactly does that mean?

PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras told ABC7 the focus right now is on conservation.

"Every little bit from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. will help reduce the chances of CALISO preparing for those rolling outages," said Contreras.

Brenton Boswick operates Sol Food in San Rafael and lost power for four hours during the mid-August outages.

"We shut down the kitchen, we tried contacting people via cell phones, we started ringing up customers on different computers and writing down their credit card numbers," he said.

Boswick doesn't want to relive the panic.

"We had no warning at all," he said. "It wasn't necessarily scary, but just a lot to deal with."

Now his team is preparing for a potential round two this weekend.

"What is PG&E doing to prepare?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"We are putting all hands on deck in these areas where we are expecting these triple digit temperatures," Contreras said. "We are stocking up on equipment, crews, all to be ready this weekend."

In the meantime, starting Saturday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. conserve all you can.

"Don't run the dishwasher, save the dishes until after 9 p.m., turn off the lights," she said. "Anything to save power during those peak hours."

During August's heat wave, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state didn't prepare enough to avoid power outages.

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"Let me just make this crystal clear: We failed to predict and plan for these shortages and that is unacceptable," Newsom said.

This time around, the governor's office is "working closely again with energy users large and small to urge conservation and promote grid reliability," a spokesperson from California's Office of Emergency Services told ABC7 News.

California ISO is asking people to reduce energy consumption by:

  • Setting the thermostat to 78 degrees
  • Turning off unnecessary lights
  • Using large appliances like washers and dryers during off-peak hours
  • Close blinds and drapes to keep rooms cool
  • "Pre-cool" homes overnight so they don't need as much energy to cool during the day
  • Use fans instead of AC when possible