The Sunrise Powerlink brings power through the desert to San Diego. Photo courtesy SDG&E

The manager of the state’s power grid has called for residents to cut back power usage to help avoid rolling blackouts caused by strain on the system during the heat wave starting Friday.

The California Independent System Operator announced Thursday that a Flex Alert — a call for voluntary power conservation — will be in effect from 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday through Monday.

“Labor Day weekend temperatures are forecast 10-20 degrees above normal for California, and the power grid operator is predicting an increase in electricity demand, primarily from air conditioning use,” according to a statement from Cal-ISO. “Overnight temperatures statewide are projected to be at least 10 degrees higher than normal, which doesn’t allow infrastructure to cool down. High heat is also predicted throughout the West for the weekend, which can limit the ISO’s ability to import energy to serve demand.”

The Flex Alert is a voluntary statewide call for people to reduce their power usage during peak hours. But if strain continues to build on the system, Cal-ISO could begin issuing emergency declarations, leading to rolling electrical blackouts, like those that occurred during high heat last month.

Eric Schmitt, vice president of operations for Cal-ISO, told reporters that despite the heat forecast and early announcement of a Flex Alert, the agency feels it will be able to handle the electricity demand without need for rolling blackouts.

“At this point we’re not forecasting any blackouts,” Schmitt said. “As we get closer and closer to each day, we’ll know better about the accuracy of our forecast.”

He added, however, that “just because we’re not forecasting blackouts at the moment, things can happen very, very suddenly” and rapidly change the availability of power.

Cal-ISO officials urged residents to take precautions aimed at reducing power use during peak hours, such as pre-cooling homes, charging electric vehicles and running major appliances earlier in the day and setting pool pumps to run early in the morning or late at night.

During Flex Alert hours, residents were urged to take conservation measures including:

  • Setting air conditioning thermostats to at least 78 degrees
  • Deferring the use of major appliances
  • Turning off unnecessary lights
  • Unplugging unused electrical devices
  • Closing blinds and drapes
  • Keeping refrigerator doors closed
  • Using fans when possible

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.