Beginning Wednesday, extreme heat will be experienced in California and the western U.S. that will strain the grid with increased power demand. In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to temporarily increase energy production and reduce demand.
The California Independent System Operator issued a Flex Alert yesterday, August 31, asking Californians to reduce their electricity consumption between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. to save energy and thus reduce the risk of power outages.
Actions the state has taken to accelerate the transition to clean energy have put approximately 4,000 megawatts on the grid that were not available in July 2020. Since then, California has also developed emergency measures that include adding generators and a Strategic Energy Reserve, additional procurement, and demand response to produce two thousand megawatts available to respond to emergency conditions such as the one being faced.
However, because this heat wave is affecting the entire western United States, limited energy resources are spreading to several states.
The prolonged drought has also greatly reduced the state's ability to generate hydroelectric power. In addition, the duration of this heat wave is different from those experienced in recent history, increasing the length of time the grid will face peak demand, the state said in a statement.
"This is just the latest reminder of how real the climate crisis is and how it is affecting the daily lives of Californians," said Governor Newsom.
"While we are taking steps to overcome the immediate crisis, this reinforces the need for urgent action to end our dependence on fossil fuels that are destroying our climate and making these heat waves hotter and more common," he stressed.
The emergency proclamation will allow power plants to generate additional electricity and the use of backup generators to reduce the amount of power they need to draw from the grid during peak power demand periods during this heat wave.
It also allows ships in California ports to reduce their consumption of electricity from the grid.
The government detailed that these are temporary emergency measures, and the state will implement additional mitigation measures to counteract the increase in emissions they will cause.
Temperatures are forecast to begin to rise beginning this Wednesday, August 31, intensifying over the holiday weekend and extending through Wednesday, September 7.
That will likely be a record heat wave in the West, so temperatures in Northern California are expected to be 10 to 20 degrees warmer than normal, while temperatures in the southern part of the state are forecast to be 10 to 18 degrees warmer than usual.
The California Independent System Operator called on Californians to reduce their energy use through Flex Alert today, and is likely to issue additional Flex Alerts in the coming days.
For the coming week, and especially on Sundays and Mondays, Californians should use their air conditioners to pre-cool their homes before 4:00 p.m. and use large appliances such as the washer and dryer during this period.
Thus, from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m., Californians should set their thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, avoid using large appliances and turn off unnecessary lights unless it is unsafe for them to do so.
Today's action comes amid climate-driven changes in weather patterns in the western United States, making heat waves more frequent and severe, affecting public health and critical infrastructure.
Extreme heat especially endangers workers, children, the elderly, historically underserved and overburdened communities, and people with underlying health problems.
It should be noted that severe heat is dangerous for everyone and can be fatal, especially when temperature extremes last more than a couple of days. Factors that increase the risk include advanced age, chronic and severe illness, and environmental overexposure - for example, certain jobs or homelessness.
The government is calling on all those caring for someone most at risk to stay in regular contact with that person, ensure they can access air-conditioned buildings such as cooling centers and public buildings, and to keep them hydrated.
In the event of heat stroke, it is important to call 911 if necessary, wear light, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, use sunscreen, and try to be less active during the hottest part of the day.
Don't forget to protect your pets from the heat and never leave a child or pet in the car, even if the windows are partially open.
You may be interested in: California announces water strategies in the face of increased heat and droughts