Heat wave headed for California, so here come the Flex Alerts

Source: Hot Air

I’ve written about this before but for those who aren’t living in California, a Flex Alert is a notification sent out by the Independent System Operator (known as Caiso) which maintains California’s electrical grid. Basically it’s the state begging residents to turn down their AC and conserve electricity lest the power grid become overtaxed which could lead to blackouts. These alerts happen every summer and are most common during heat waves because that’s when the most people are using the AC in the first place. The last one was issued on August 17th.

That’s basically how it works. It’s not just Twitter of course. Every radio station will be issuing these alters as will local TV news. People who’ve signed up also get the notifications on their phones. So here we are heading into a holiday weekend and the state is warning there’s a heat wave coming which means more Flex Alerts are expected.

The heat wave — a result of a large dome of hot air sitting over Central and Southern California — is expected to begin Wednesday and last through Tuesday next week.

Record-breaking heat is possible Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service office in Oxnard…

“If weather or grid conditions worsen, the ISO may issue a series of emergency notifications to access additional resources and prepare market participants and the public for potential energy shortages and the need to conserve,” the officials warned Tuesday night. “The power grid operator expects to call on Californians for voluntary energy conservation via Flex Alerts over the long weekend.”

During a Flex Alert, consumers are urged to reduce their energy use from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., hours when the grid is most stressed because of high demand and less available energy from solar panels.

In fact, they’ve already issued an alert for today.

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) has issued a statewide Flex Alert, a call for voluntary electricity conservation, for today, Aug. 31 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., due to high temperatures pushing up energy demand and tightening available power supplies.

With excessive heat in the forecast across much of the state and Western U.S., the grid operator is expecting high electricity demand, primarily from air conditioning use, and is
calling for voluntary conservation steps to help balance supply and demand.

California had rolling blackouts in the summer of 2020 during a heatwave. That was a political disaster for Gov. Newsom and he promised to investigate but the reasons aren’t very hard to understand as the Wall Street Journal pointed out at the time.

Even former Gov. Gray Davis admitted the culprit is the state’s anti-fossil fuel policies. “The bottom line is, people don’t want lights to go down,” he told Politico. “People also want a carbon-free future. Sometimes those two aspirations come into conflict.” They certainly do.

California’s Independent System Operator (Caiso) has been warning for years that the state’s increasing dependence on intermittent renewables, especially solar, is making it harder to ensure reliable power. Renewables currently make up about 36% of California’s electric generation, and Democrats have set a 60% mandate for 2030 and 100% for 2045…

Dozens of natural-gas plants that can ramp up power on demand have closed since 2013—enough to supply about four million households—so California is relying more on energy imported from other states when needed. In normal times it imports about 15% of its energy. But the Golden State’s neighbors are also experiencing heat waves, and many have also been replacing fossil fuels with renewables too…

The power outages will get worse and more frequent as the state becomes more reliant on renewables. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has directed utilities to triple their battery storage for electricity by 2026. But this won’t make up for the natural-gas and nuclear plants that are slated to shut down in the interim—or the state’s power shortfalls during the heat wave.

Gov. Newsom got a warning earlier this year that we could see another heat wave leading to blackouts this summer. That was right about the time he switched his position on keeping California’s last nuclear plant open instead of shutting it down. But whatever happens with the Diablo Canyon plant in the future, it’s operating this weekend so it won’t alleviate the need for Flex Alerts or the potentially for rolling blackouts.

What’s needed is either more nuclear power or more natural gas to fill in the gaps when the sun starts going down and solar power is dropping off. Some environmentalists are coming around to nuclear power but natural gas is still a non-starter for most of the “keep it in the ground” types. Eventually we may have enough battery storage that natural gas isn’t needed but that’s still many years off. So for the near future, it’s hard to see how this situation is going to improve here in the Golden state. Luckily for the state’s energy grid, the population of California is declining rather than growing.