A California Independent System Operator (CAISO) emergency alert email given out at around 5:45 P.M. on Tuesday has been credited in helping avert statewide brownouts later that night according to CAISO and Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) data.
Many, including Californian agencies, were predicting brownouts to hit across the state on Tuesday, particularly during the peak energy use hours between 4 and 9 P.M. As predicted, energy use quickly went above 51,000 megawatts (MW) around 4 P.M. With use staying high and close to straining the system, at 5:45 P.M. CAISO sent out a text message reading “Conserve energy now to protect public health and safety. Extreme heat is straining the state energy grid. Power interruptions may occur unless you take action. Turn off or reduce nonessential power if health allows, now until 9pm.”
The message, which was also sent in Spanish, was sent out to residents of the counties of Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Merced, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Shasta, Sonoma, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare, Ventura, and Yolo. It was also one of the last attempts made by the state before power shutdown decisions would have to be made.
Cal OES issued an emergency alert to targeted counties urging for immediate energy conservation tonight to protect public health and safety amidst ongoing record heat. As a result, the state's energy grid reflected a significant drop in energy use. https://t.co/MuqrUNBCt8 pic.twitter.com/bpuDAB3WkC
— California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (@Cal_OES) September 7, 2022
However, within minutes of the message going out, usage suddenly plunged. A predicted 51,145 MW plummeted to 48,769 MW, immediately reducing the strain and keeping the lights on across California for the night. Governor Newsom, speaking to the press in Beverly Hills when the texts went out, said that 27 million texts had gone out and within minutes 2,600 MW of power usage in California suddenly went away. He also confirmed that rotating blackouts were only minutes away at that point.
“Had that not happened, we would have had some episodic load reduction,” said the Governor. “That was extraordinary.”
Cal OES additionally noted that “With extreme weather stretching California’s energy grid and threatening public health and safety, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services issued an emergency alert at 5:45 pm, asking residents to conserve power.
“As a result of this action, the California Independent System Operation (CaISO) saw an immediate and significant drop in energy use, providing some relief to the state’s grid.”
CAISO also personally thanked residents for relieving the grid when asked to, tweeting out “At 8 p.m., the grid operator ended its Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) 3 with no load sheds for the night. Consumer conservation played a big part in protecting electric grid reliability. Thank you, California!”
At 8 p.m., the grid operator ended its Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) 3 with no load sheds for the night. Consumer conservation played a big part in protecting electric grid reliability. Thank you, California!
— California ISO (@California_ISO) September 7, 2022
High praise for resident action despite state lagging on advancing state’s energy resources
Many energy officials noted that both CAISO and residents of California saved the grid on Tuesday.
“It’s not exactly society coming together during total war and going on ration books and buying liberty bonds, but Californians should come out with their heads held a little higher today for coming together and helping avert blackouts,” explained Michael Spangler, a Texas-based electrical grid expert, to the Globe on Wednesday. “States like Texas have failed to heed calls like that in the past. But California? Totally did it with watts to spare.”
“We did some random interviews this morning with people who got the alert, and it is kind of stunning. Granted, so far it’s a small pool of people, but we’ve had liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans, older people, younger people, whoever all saying that they shut off unused lights in the house or that they turned off a fan or even just unplugged a toaster or something for a few hours. Everyone seemed to have done something. And it worked. This needs to happen a few more times to get a good baseline, but the texts may be a reliable temporary energy reduction measure going into future flex energy crises.”
Despite the praise, many others noted that measures like these would not be needed in the first place if California was not in a better place in terms of energy in the first place.
“We barely kept a nuclear power station alive on Tuesday,” noted LA-based energy expert Adam Klein to the Globe on Wednesday. “We have been scrapping fossil fuel plants for green energy plants, even though we are no where near where we should be. New green plants have just not caught up to the energy lost in scrapped fossil fuel plants.”
“It’s good that blackouts were averted on Tuesday. You aren’t going to hear complaints against that. But people should be asking why we’re here. It’s not just because it is really hot and AC usage is straining the grid. It’s because our supplies have been limited by state carbon free goals that have shut down a lot of needed plants. It’s because green energy production has been slow to climb. And really it’s about the state just dropping the ball on this. Like, they are pushing for more electric cars despite a more and more constricted energy system. It comes to the point where it’s not even about policy anymore and it’s just basic math of how much electricity is wanted, how much you have, and what the usage is.”
“Again, it’s great that residents will come together to help prevent power shutoffs. But the residents did more than the state did in helping keep demand below current energy levels.”
Future emergency alert texts asking residents to reduce electrical use may happen during the rest of the week as the heat wave continues across the state.
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