During the heat wave that’s expected to last through Labor Day, Californians will likely be asked to ease off on the air conditioning, and anything else that consumes electricity. Over the next several days, the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power grid, warned that it probably will issue a series of Flex Alerts, in the hope to avoid blackouts.

Flex Alerts are voluntary calls for conservation during the afternoon and evening hours when energy use tends to soar. The things the residents will be asked to do are to avoid using dishwashers or other large appliances, turn up their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, and hold off on charging their electric vehicles, all this during the 4-9 p.m. time frame.

The grid manager has already issued a “restricted maintenance operations” notice to delay routine maintenance that would take generating or transmission equipment offline. This is a directive telling power generators and transmission line operators.

Across California, temperatures are expected to be 10 to 20 degrees above normal, the ISO said. The peak demand is predicted to surpass the highest energy usage of the year, which was 48,000 megawatts, reported the Sac Bee. The forecast from the National Weather Service also dovetails with that bleak outlook, as it says that temperatures could hit 114 degrees in parts of the Sacramento Valley.

High temperatures are forecast throughout the West, so this is what makes this heat wave so potentially troublesome. So as it frequently does go, that will make it harder for California to import electricity supplies from other states. In August 2020, a shortage of imports contributed to two nights of rolling blackouts. When a big wildfire in Oregon temporarily damaged transmission lines and cut off some imports last summer, the state narrowly avoided a repeat of those blackouts.

Particularly, the power grid is vulnerable in the evening, as electricity from solar panels tapers off but it’s still so hot that residents keep air conditioners humming. Some critics have questioned whether the grid can withstand the added demand from millions of electric vehicles being plugged into chargers, with California positioning itself to ban the sale of gas- and diesel-powered new cars in 2035.

Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged the electrical system’s weaknesses and has asked the Legislature to loan PG&E Corp. up to $1.4 billion to postpone the scheduled 2025 closure of Diablo Canyon, the state’s last nuclear plant. For now, in the waning days of this year’s legislative session, the request is still pending.

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