Update 8:45 p.m. — The California ISO has downgraded the emergency status of the statewide grid and PG&E has announced there will be no rolling blackouts tonight. However, a flex alert remains in place for customers to conserve energy between the hours of 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
MENDOCINO Co., 8/17/20 — This historic heat wave is forecast to continue across California through at least Wednesday, and the resultant increase in energy use has led to ongoing strain on the statewide electrical grid — leading to rolling blackouts in California for the first time in the almost two decades. Last week, Cal ISO (California’s electrical grid operator) called for a “flex alert” requesting customers conserve power, and this afternoon, the ISO and PG&E announced that more rolling blackouts may be possible this evening, and through Wednesday. Notably — and unlike in the case of fire-preventative planned power shut-offs — there may be little to no notice of these blackouts.
Similar rolling blackouts occurred on Friday evening on parts of Mendocino County’s south coast, which seems to be connected to Sonoma’s county’s grid, in Santa Rosa, and around the state, and brief blackouts also occurred Saturday evening, although not in Mendocino County. The California Independent System Operator (ISO), which operates the statewide electrical grid, called for another flex alert today from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and warned that the blackouts may be ongoing through Wednesday.
The County of Mendocino and The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office urged residents to be prepared for potential power outages, and to conserve electricity during the flex alerts, which are between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. today through Wednesday. The City of Willits also posted on Facebook that officials had been notified the blackouts are possible in the Willits area, and a number of readers of The Mendocino Voice from different parts of Mendocino County have reported receiving phone calls or other notifications from PG&E regarding potential blackouts — however, so far our staff has not received any.
The ISO provides information and notifications about the current level of statewide electrical use on it’s website, which briefly crashed today due to excessive traffic, and through an app. Information about current PG&E outages can be found on their outages map webpage. There were several outages in Mendocino County this morning that were related to the ongoing thunderstorms, but not a direct result of strain on the statewide grid.
These blackouts differ from planned power outages in that they are the result of increased electrical use, and not a planned outage to reduce the risks of wildfires. However, as of now NWS has issued a red flag warning, hazardous weather warning, and heat advisory for large portions of Mendocino County and Northern California through the morning of August 17.
On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation concerning energy use, met with officials, and “worked with industrial and commercial consumers to reduce energy consumption during peak hours” in order to expand capacity during the upcoming heat wave and beyond, according to a press release from his office. Newsom also addressed the issue during his live update on Monday afternoon.
Some ways to reduce energy use include using fans instead of air conditioners, or keeping your thermostat at no lower than 78 degrees, unplugging appliances or charges that aren’t in use, keeping shades drawn and reducing lighting.
Here’s additional tips from the Governor’s Office on how to energy consumption:
- Adjust Your Thermostat
- During peak hours or when you’re not home, remember to set your thermostat at 78° or higher. Setting your air conditioner 5° higher can save up to 20 percent on cooling costs.
- Pre-cool your home by running air conditioning at 72 degrees in the early part of the day (when it is more efficient) then turn your system to 78 or higher during the hottest part of the day when demand is the highest.
- Use smart or programmable features to help maintain energy savings when you’re not home.
- Close Windows and Doors
- Keep windows and doors closed to prevent the loss of cooled or heated air.
- On summer nights, open windows to let cooler air in when safe. In the morning before the day starts to heat up, close windows and blinds to keep warm air out.
- Tilt blinds up and close drapes and shades on windows that receive direct sunlight.
- Smart Energy Use
- Turn off unnecessary lighting and use task or desktop lamps with LEDs instead of overhead lights.
- Enable “power management” on all computers and turn off when not in use.
- Unplug phone charges, power strips (those without a switch) and other equipment when not in use. Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.
- Access and Functional Needs
- Check in on neighbors, friends and family who may be at risk.
- Charge medical devices in off hours and have back up plan for if the power goes out.
- In addition to traditional community support channels, individuals with access and functional needs should reach out to local government for assistance.
- Contact local utilities companies if you are dependent on power for assistive devices.
- Major Appliance Use
- Postpone using major appliances like the oven, dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer until cooler times of the day to avoid heating up your home.
- Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when full. Wait until after 9 p.m. to use these and other major appliances.
- When possible, wash clothes in cold water. About 90 percent of the energy used in a clothes washer goes to water heating.
- Clean or Replace Your Filters
- A dirty filter forces your air conditioner and furnace to work harder, wasting money, using more energy or natural gas.
- Adjust Your Water Heater
- Turn your water heater down to 120° or the “normal” setting. Water heating accounts for about 13 percent of home energy costs.
- Conservation Programs
- Consider participating in your utility’s demand response program. These voluntary programs are short, temporary measures to reduce energy consumption when power supplies are critically low and a Flex Alert has been issued. Contact your local electric utility to learn about your utility’s program and incentives they may offer to participate.