Power demand during an unprecedented heat wave could lead California’s electric grid operators to shut the lights off for 2.5 million to 3 million customers starting Sunday afternoon — if customers don’t conserve enough at the right time, officials said.
Executives of the California Independent System Operator said the state could see power demand outstrip supply by around 4,000 megawatts, leading to a possible Stage 2 power emergency declared around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. when temperatures tend to soar.
Temperatures Sunday were expected to be even hotter than previous days. By noon, communities across Southern California were already experiencing 110 degree Farenheit heat and above.
“Today is probably sizing up to be our most challenging day of the year,” said Eric Schmitt, the System Operator’s vice president of operations. “We have very severe conditions on the system with high loads…I think it’s fair to say that without really significant conservation and help from customers today, that we’ll have to have some rolling outages.”
Real-time projections for the grid showed power demand reaching around 49,000 megawatts by Sunday afternoon, at least 2,000 megawatts more than was required on Saturday.
John Phipps, an operations director for the grid, said power managers were able to avoid rotating blackouts on Saturday, despite demand coming in a little bit higher than they anticipated.
He said California’s grid — which relies on solar power that dips when the sun begins to set — borrowed some power from neighboring states to cover the gap.
The state’s grid has relied on rotating power outages to lessen strain on the system since the power crisis of the early 2000’s. To prevent wider blackouts, California’s investor owned utilities, like Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, are required to maintain lists of power blocks they can turn off when demand gets too high.
Schmitt said Sunday rotating power outages could last as long as an hour for individual customers. Edison officials in the past said they have been able to limit rotating blackouts to as little as 15 minutes for some.
Still, the state’s grid operators are also contending with wildfires and aging equipment, which led to some unplanned blackouts Saturday.
Thousands were still in the dark Sunday. Outages for customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison were due to repair work on overloaded lines.
About 37,000 lost power starting Saturday night; by Sunday, 7,000 DWP customers still were without power. Just 100 outages were reported in Edison’s network.
The power was out for about 2,291 customers in the West Adams neighborhood of South L.A. Another 817 in Reseda, 723 in Sun Valley and 623 in Pacoima were waiting for the power to be turned back on.