The worst heat wave of the year presents a critical test for California’s overloaded power grid, with officials warning that blackouts are possible without major conservation efforts during a week of scorching temperatures.
The extreme heat is expected to grip the vast majority of California for at least six days, possibly even longer.
Officials are concerned about power capacity in part because high temperatures are forecast not only in inland regions that typically scorch at this time of year, but also along many parts of the coast. This could mean that a lot more people are looking for air conditioning during peak hours.
“We expect this extreme heat to be of a length and duration that we haven’t seen in some time,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, urging residents to conserve energy.
Temperatures could reach historic and monthly highs, and are expected to be 10 to 20 degrees above average during the day with little relief expected in the evening. High temperatures could reach 124 degrees in Death Valley.
“We’re not sure when this is going to end,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Rasch said of the heat wave.
Authorities are asking Californians to limit electricity use when possible to minimize the strain on the state’s energy providers or risk causing these outages. Loss of power during such extreme heat perhaps very dangerous, even deadlyespecially for the most vulnerable.
California officials on Wednesday issued the first statewide Flex Alert during this heat wave, as most of the state entered its first day of extreme heat in this wave. A second Flex Alert was released for Thursday.
During a Flex Alert, consumers are asked to reduce their energy consumption in the afternoon and evening, when the network is the most stressed due to high demand and less energy available from solar panels.
Newsom declared a state of emergency on Wednesday following a request from California’s Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s electric grid, to temporarily increase power generation and supply systems. response during the intense period of extreme heat.
“It will be a sustained event that will require sustained attention and sustained attendance,” said Elliot Mainzer, president of Cal ISO.
The governor’s Office of Emergency Services is tracking cooling centers across the state, and they will continue to expand as the heat episode continues, officials said. The office also has generators and rapid response teams ready to deploy to communities in need as the risk of wildfires increases. Officials are bracing for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to see the highest power demands this year, likely above 48,000 megawatts.
Mark Ghilarducci, director of the office, said the situation is constantly changing.
“It will continue to unfold and present itself differently across the state in the coming days,” he said.
Despite government plans and efforts to bring more capacity online, the power system remains particularly vulnerable as nearby areas where California imports power are also experiencing crushing conditions. The ongoing drought is straining the energy grid by reducing hydroelectric supply sources, officials said, along with a small number of plants that have gone offline in recent years.
Siva Gunda, vice president of the California Energy Commission, said the state is working to bring more supplies online, including through several projects, and to bolster energy reserves.
Newsom advised Californians to crank their thermostats up to 78 degrees during the Flex Alert from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday. The governor warned that Sunday and Monday will be the toughest days for the energy grid.
High temperatures have hit as the governor and his team pressure lawmakers to pass a bill on the last day of the legislative year to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open until 2035.
The plant, which is on the coast of San Luis Obispo County and generated 6% of the state’s electricity last year, is scheduled to close in 2025.
Newsom argues that Diablo needs to stay open for California to keep the lights on during heat waves and avoid a repeat of the blackouts the state experienced two years ago. The environmental groups that pushed for Diablo to be shut down six years ago strongly oppose it.
The heat wave began Wednesday with daily heat records in parts of Southern California.
Woodland Hills hit 112 degrees, breaking the previous record of 111 degrees for Aug. 31 set in 1998. Burbank’s peak of 112 broke the previous daily record of 108 degrees set in 2017, and Sandberg hit 100 degrees, topping the previous high of 98 degrees. , also in 2017.
And that’s just the start of Labor Day weekend and beyond.
Temperatures along the coast could range from 80 to 95 degrees Wednesday through Saturday, before rising to 100 degrees Sunday and Monday, the weather service said.
Valleys and mountains could be hit with temperatures of 95 to 110 degrees Wednesday through Saturday, and highs of up to 115 on Sunday and Monday, meteorologists said.
“This is not a normal heat wave,” said meteorologist Trevor Boucher of the National Weather Service in Las Vegas.
Times writer Nathan Solis contributed to this report.