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Thousands without power in California's Bay Area during brutal heat wave

Last week, California’s Independent System Operator called for residents to participate in "voluntary conservation" and to "set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using large appliances and charging electric vehicles, and turn off unnecessary lights" over the Labor Day weekend.

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Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
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After warnings of strain in California’s electrical grid, thousands of customers in the Bay Area were without power as of Monday.

According to PG&E, up to 5,000 customers were without power during an excessive heat warning. Locations included Concord, Pleasant Hill, Moraga, Napa, Milpitas, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Sunnyvale, and Vallejo.

PG&E did not specify the cause of the outages, nor did the company announce when power will be restored.

Last week, California’s Independent System Operator called for residents to participate in "voluntary conservation" and to "set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using large appliances and charging electric vehicles, and turn off unnecessary lights" over the Labor Day weekend which was forecasted to be especially hot.

This came only days after the Golden State announced that they would be banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035.

Flex Alerts, a statewide request for residents to voluntarily reduce energy consumption from 4 pm to 9 pm, were issued for six consecutive days for the hours when California’s grid is under the most pressure because production from solar decreases and eventually disappears but the weather is still hot and energy demand remains high.

In 2020, California experienced statewide power outages that led to some areas losing power for up to 2 1/2 hours on August 14 and 15. Two weeks later, over the Labor Day weekend, customers had to scale back electrical use to prevent more rolling blackouts.

In July 2021, the state’s grid was pushed to the brink again when prolonged hot weather lowered water levels at hydroelectric facilities from neighboring states including Oregon and Washington, straining power imports to the Golden State. California imports a third of its energy from other states. The ISO issued eight other Flex Alerts in 2021.

On August 16, 2022, the ISO issued a Flex Alert during another hot weather spell.

The grid operator recommended consumers reduce energy by:

  • Pre-cooling homes by adjusting blinds and drapes to cover windows
  • Setting thermostats to 78 degrees or more from 4 pm to 9 pm
  • Avoiding using major appliances and charging electric vehicles
  • turning off unnecessary lights

The California Energy Commission recently issued a report predicting widespread power outages in the state of California for the next five years at the minimum.

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