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California could see blackouts as heat wave taxes the power grid

Electrical grid towers are seen during a heat wave where temperature reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit, in Pasadena, Calif. on Wednesday.
John Antczak
/
AP
Electrical grid towers are seen during a heat wave where temperature reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit, in Pasadena, Calif. on Wednesday.

As Californians crank up the air conditioning during a heat wave, state officials are urging consumers to limit their electricity use to avoid strain on the power grid – and the potential for rolling blackouts.

A California grid operator issued a power grid emergency alert on Monday and renewed calls for people to find ways to conserve electricity use this week during afternoons and evenings to prevent outages. California Independent System Operator, better known as Caiso, provides energy to about 80% of the state.

For the sixth consecutive day, a statewide Flex Alert was in effect on Monday, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. PT. During a Flex Alert, consumers are urged to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using major appliances and turn off all unnecessary lights.

"We have now entered the most intense phase of this heat wave," said Elliot Mainzer, the grid operator's chief executive officer. "Forecasted demand for Monday and Tuesday is at all-time record levels and the potential for rotating outages has increased significantly."

Mainszer said Flex Alerts have already been helping alleviate stress on the power grid in recent days, but that consumers will need to ramp up their level of conservation by two or three times.

California will see record-breaking heat through Friday, said Marc Chenard, a forecaster with the Weather Prediction Center.

Sacramento could reach 114 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday, surpassing the monthly record of 109 degrees. San Jose will match previous daily records with a 104-degree high forecast for Tuesday. In Los Angeles, Burbank is expected to hit 109 degrees on Wednesday, smashing the daily record of 106.

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