CA households could prevent blackouts by reducing energy use by 25%, expert says

"Together, we can actually reduce over 200 megawatts at a time. That's like taking a small city and just turning it off."

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Friday, September 2, 2022
Here's how CA households can prevent blackouts amid heat wave
Experts explain how California households can prevent power outages, blackouts amid a heat wave and triple-digit temperatures.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Hot temperatures in September aren't unusual for the Bay Area but climate scientists are concerned about just how hot it is getting.

Livermore could reach 100 degrees on Thursday.

RELATED: Flex Alert issued in California as parts of state could see 8 consecutive days of triple-digit heat

"That would have been closer to 97 degrees Fahrenheit in a preindustrial climate. And we would expect this same type of day to be more like 104 degrees Fahrenheit in a three degrees Celsius warmed world at the end of the century in 2100," explains Patrick Brown, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute and a visiting scholar at San Jose State University.

He says the impact of global warming on California means drier conditions, which increases the threat of wildfires. But it also increases the demand for energy during heat waves.

"Monday and Tuesday, we are likely to be above 48,000 megawatts. That is believed to be the highest we have seen this year," says Elliot Mainzer, CEO of the California Independent System Operator.

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?

Brown says the supply of electricity doesn't spike at the same time as the spike in demand. The drought means California has less hydroelectric power. And currently, California doesn't have to capacity to store huge amounts of solar energy.

"Enough storage to store solar energy from the middle of the day and move it to the evening," says Brown.

That's why a Flex Alert was issued to conserve power to prevent blackouts.

"The surprising thing is, how much of a difference individual homes can make," says Cisco DeVries, CEO of OhmConnect.

RELATED: Extreme heat dangers and safety tips - What you need to know

OhmConnect is a free service that notifies customers on how to reduce power. Customers earn rewards for saving energy and can get cash back.

Devries says the average home in California uses two kilowatts of power; 500 homes make up about one megawatt.

In August of 2020, when California was hit with blackouts, demand exceeded supply by just 500 megawatts. He says if households, ranging from big homes to apartments, reduce energy use by even 25 percent, it could be enough to prevent blackouts.

"What it takes is about 50,000 customers to reduce their energy use by a bit, and that's enough to make up for an entire power plant not having to turn on," says DeVries. "Together, we can actually reduce over 200 megawatts at a time. That's like taking a small city and just turning it off."

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