California ISO issues statewide Flex Alert for Friday

Taylor Martinez

The California Independent System Operator issued a statewide Flex Alert for Friday, July 9, citing extreme temperatures across much of California and a potential capacity shortfall on the state’s electric grid.

A Flex Alert is issued by the ISO when the electricity grid is under stress because of generation or transmission outages, or from persistent hot temperatures.

Consumers are asked to voluntarily conserve electricity from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Such conservation would help ease the strain on the grid during the crucial evening hours when solar energy is diminished or no longer available.

When Flex Alerts were called in mid-June and during last summer’s regional heat wave in August and September, consumers answered the call and collectively made a significant reduction in their energy use. That allowed grid operators to avoid or limit possible rotating power outages that can become necessary when demand for electricity outstrips capacity.

During the hours that a Flex Alert is in effect, consumers are strongly encouraged to take these specific actions:
— Set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, if your health permits
— Avoid using major appliances, like dish washers and clothes washers and dryers
— Turn off all unnecessary lights

Consumers are also encouraged to use fans for cooling and unplug unused electrical items.

In the hours before a Flex Alert takes effect, consumers are encouraged to take these steps to help the state manage energy use later in the day.

These steps can also help people be more comfortable when cutting back on their electricity usage:
— Pre-cool your home by lowering the thermostat
— If you need to use your major appliances, do it earlier in the day, when solar energy is abundant
— Close window coverings to keep your home or apartment cool
— Take advantage of the solar energy to charge electronic devices and electric vehicles so there’s no need to do it later, when solar is not available

After a Flex Alert is in effect, if demand still outstrips supply, the ISO will use other tools it has available for emergency conditions. If those tools are exhausted, the ISO could order California utilities to reduce demand by implementing rotating power outages of relatively short duration to effectively extend the available electricity as much as possible, although that is not anticipated at this time.

As California’s ability to store solar and wind energy with batteries or other technology continues to improve, those crucial evening hours will be less of a challenge and similar emergencies rarer. But for now, collective action to conserve is our most effective way to keep the grid working for as many people as possible.

For information on Flex Alerts, and to get more electricity conservation tips, visit the ISO’s Flex Alert website.

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