On Tuesday evening, California experienced limited power outages as power demand reached record highs and the system reached its highest emergency alert level — but the state avoided rolling blackouts thanks to consumer conservation.
The California Independent System Operator (ISO) reported Tuesday evening that power demand had reached 52,061 megawatts, breaking a record set in 2006 during one of the state’s longest and most intense heat waves.
The state issued its second consecutive “Energy Emergency Alert,” raising the alert level to Level 3, which indicates that rolling blackouts are imminent. There were no formal statewide blackouts, aside from the “load shedding” mentioned by some local authorities.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there was some confusion among state and local authorities about whether load shedding had occurred:
Around 7 p.m., Palo Alto officials said they had been permitted to restore power to approximately 1,700 customers following outages to meet Cal ISO’s “load-shedding requirements.”
“We did not order rotating outages,” said Anne Gonzales, an ISO spokesperson, in an email addressed to The Times. “We held at [Energy Emergency Alert] 3 with no load shed, and [the alert] ended at 8 p.m.”
The crisis is far from over: authorities have issued a new “Flex Alert” for Wednesday, the eighth in a row, urging consumers to conserve energy, including not charging electric vehicles.
The Flex Alert will be active starting at 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Due to the heat, energy demand is highest in the afternoon. On top of that, power supplies are depleted as solar energy becomes unavailable.
The state has shifted rapidly toward solar and wind energy while closing natural gas and nuclear power plants, resulting in an energy crisis that officials must address as the state moves toward requiring all drivers to purchase electric vehicles by 2035, which will require 30% more power than the grid currently provides.