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Flex Alert extended through Tuesday, statewide rolling power outages possible

According to Cal-ISO, electrical demand on Tuesday afternoon could top 51,000 megawatts, the highest demand the state has ever seen.

SAN DIEGO — Scorching temperatures, which are setting new records daily, continues this week Monday across much of San Diego County with an excessive heat warning in place until Friday night.

On Monday, the California Independent Systems Operator has extended its Flex Alert to Tuesday, Sept. 6. According to Cal-ISO, electrical demand on Tuesday afternoon could top 51,000 megawatts, the highest demand the state has ever seen.

Some drying with mid-level flow strengthening is expected to lead to increasing high temperatures through Monday, which is expected to be the hottest day of the week for most areas.

The heatwave is putting pressure on California's power grid and increasing the chances for rolling blackouts. The alerts have worked thus far, with the state avoiding involuntary power cutoffs. 

Cisco DeVries, an energy expert and CEO of OhmConnect, said the state doesn't have enough energy to meet the demand.

He said California gets a chunk of its energy from hydroelectric power. The water that runs through dams normally generates electricity. This year we're not seeing as much water running through the dams because of the drought.

DeVries said typically the hydroelectric power is turned on during that key time of day but this year we don't have it. He said we could likely see blackouts during the early evening hours because of it.

"I've never quite seen the California grid this stressed in my entire career," he said. "We are just so short of the amount of energy that we need to meet the demand during a heat wave like this."

The National Weather Service extended the excessive heat warning that has been in effect all weekend, which is now set to expire at 8 p.m. Friday.

A Flex Alert will be in effect again Tuesday seeking voluntary power conservation and increasing the hours users are asked to reduce strain on the state's electrical grid while near triple-digit temperatures continue to drive up air conditioner use. 

The California Independent System Operator -- which manages the state's power grid -- issued the first Flex Alert of the week on Wednesday, urging residents to reduce electricity use from 4 to 9 p.m. Additional Flex Alerts have been issued for the same hours each day since Wednesday.

"The ISO is working with state agencies and market participants to bring all available energy resources online for what are expected to be the most challenging days of the heat wave," according to Cal-ISO.

Cal-ISO has warned that more Flex Alerts are likely to be posted during the duration of the heat wave.

During the alerts, residents are urged to take power-saving steps such as:

  • setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher;
  • avoiding use of major appliances;
  • turning off unnecessary lights; and
  • avoid charging electric vehicles.

Residents are also advised to pre-cool their homes as much as possible and close blinds and drapes to keep interiors cool.

A Flex Alert is the lowest-level notification issued by Cal-ISO, but if voluntary conservation fails to cut strain on the power grid, the agency could move into a series of emergency alerts that could ultimately lead to rolling blackouts.

RELATED: Sweltering conditions continue across San Diego County Wednesday

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