LOS ANGELES - With temperatures soaring across Southern California and beyond, a Flex Alert calling on residents to voluntarily cut their power use will be in effect again on Friday evening in hopes of reducing strain on the state's power grid.
According to the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state's power grid, the Flex Alert will be in effect from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.
A Flex Alert is a call for voluntary energy conservation, essentially a plea for residents across the state to cut their power use to reduce overall demand and lower the risk of outages.
A Flex Alert was also in effect for California residents on Thursday night.
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Around midday Wednesday, Cal-ISO projected that it would have adequate energy supplies through Thursday, although it urged residents "to remain vigilant" in case demand suddenly increased and threatened the availability of power reserves.
Shortly after 2 p.m., Cal-ISO announced plans for the Flex Alert.
Bill Powers, the Principal of Powers Engineering in San Diego, weighed in about the flex alert issued.
"I think that the Independent System Operator has to be careful about crying wolf under these moderate loads," said Powers.
Powers said the grid should be able to manage the temperatures from Thursday without a flex alert, and also spoke about the rolling blackouts last summer that impacted hundreds of thousands of people.
"Last summer we had a heatwave and we had high demand for electricity, though there's been a lot of conflation between the heatwave and the high demand," Powers said. "It was very hot but the demand was moderate by peak standards. It was what we expected it to be. The ISO was actually allowing California generators to sell their power out of state during the peak so they were sending thousands of megawatts to neighboring states. What also came out in the After Action Evaluation was that many power plants especially the coastal power plants, the older ones, basically in Southern California, many of them couldn't respond when that heatwave hit. They had mechanical problems. They weren't being maintained sufficiently to respond."
According to Cal-ISO, residents are urged to take steps prior to the alert taking effect, such as pre-cooling their homes, using major appliances and closing window coverings to preserve cool air indoors. Once the alert takes effect, residents should set their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using major appliances and turn off all unnecessary lights.
The state has taken preventive steps to avoid the possibility of more rolling blackouts in 2021, such as adding 3,500 megawatts of capacity.
"It is true that this summer we have more generation at our disposal to deal with the issue. We've got more reserves in our back pocket this summer and we are paying a tremendous amount of money to do that and that's the band-aid. The band-aid is that California is paying a lot of money for more generation that we do not need if we manage and keep our power in California when we really need it. It may mask the problem this summer but the problem is still there," said Powers.