No Rotating Power Outages Needed Tuesday: PG&E

Power lines stand in Crockett
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

PG&E said rotating power outages are no longer needed Tuesday as the California Independent System Operator thanked consumers for "keeping the electricity flowing."

The utility company warned customers earlier in the day, not making it clear exactly when the outages could occur, only that they're estimated to last about two hours, the utility said.

Another Flex Alert is in place for Wednesday, so if PG&E is ordered by California ISO to shut off power, customers can use this tool to see if they'll be impacted.

The California ISO had warned Monday that as many as 3.3 million homes and businesses would be affected by an evening emergency order that would have required utilities to stage rotating, two-hour outages. But the order never was issued and the warning was canceled shortly before 8 p.m.

Pleas for people to leave their air conditioners at higher temperatures and avoid using washing machines and other major appliances seemed to have worked. “Thank you for conserving,” California ISO said in a tweet.

However, grid managers warned that the threat of outages remained as temperatures were expected to hit triple digits again in many areas of the state. The National Weather Service said it may take until Friday or Saturday before excess heat watches and warnings ease.

The strong ridge of high pressure responsible for the heat wave will gradually weaken over coming days, progressively moderating temperatures, forecasters said.

The California ISO has issued a statewide Flex Alert from 3 to 10 p.m. every day through Wednesday. Californians are asked to conserve energy during these times.

In order to save energy, PG&E has released the following tips:

  • Set the thermostat to 78 degrees when at home. If you're not home, turn it up to 85 degrees or turn it off.
  • Use a ceiling fan.
  • Cover windows.
  • Avoid using the oven and if possible cook on the stove, use a microwave or grill outside.
  • Limit the opening of refrigerators.
  • Clean clothes and dishes early in the day.

Scorching weather has hit other Western states, making it harder for California to import extra power.

“What we have is a situation where the entire region is more than hot, it’s extremely hot,” said Steve Berberich, California ISO’s president and CEO. “We can’t get the energy that we would normally get from out of state because it’s being used to serve loads natively. That would probably account for another 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts and could have very well have closed the gap.”

California ISO has struggled to reduce the electrical demand since last Friday, when it issued the first rolling blackouts in nearly 20 years. The three biggest utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — turned off power to more than 410,000 homes and businesses for about an hour at a time until the emergency declaration ended 3 1/2 hours later.

A second but shorter outage hit Saturday evening, affecting more than 200,000 customers.

An irate Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an emergency proclamation Sunday allowing some energy users and utilities to tap backup energy sources. Newsom also sent a letter demanding that the state Energy Commission, state Public Utilities Commission and the California Independent System Operator investigate the blackouts.

“These blackouts, which occurred without prior warning or enough time for preparation, are unacceptable and unbefitting of the nation’s largest and most innovative state,” Newsom wrote. “This cannot stand.”

On Monday, the Democratic governor said he was ready to “move forward to simply make sure this never happens again.”

During a grid operator board meeting Monday, Berberich said the weekend blackouts could have been avoided had regulators listened to its previous concerns about a power shortfall. In call later with reporters, he softened his tone, saying he knows the Public Utilities Commission is working to find the right balance of energy sources.

“It’s substantial, no question about it,” he said of the outage.

The Public Utilities Commission said it would work with the other agencies to figure out what happened. The demand for electricity in the last few days has been consistent with expectations, spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said.

“The question we’re tackling is why certain resources were not available,” she said.

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