California narrowly averted rolling power outages on Sunday evening to relieve the power grid as parts of the state had record-breaking temperatures.
The California independent system operator, which operates much of the state’s power grid, had anticipated a 4,000 megawatt shortage of electricity, partly due to import restrictions and forest fires in transmission lines in parts of the state. It was a level 2 emergency where utilities were asked to save electricity in the early evening hours without calling for rotating failures.
An extreme heat wave in the southern half of the state resulted in temperatures above 120 degrees in some areas, forcing residents to shelter inside and crank up their air conditioning, which increased electricity demands. As a result, the operator̵
The Californians responded by saving energy during the supply crisis, and the network operator canceled the emergency on Sunday evening.
In addition to the heat hazard, parts of the state may experience power outages during the week due to an expected storm. On Saturday PG & E. Corp.,
The company, which serves 16 million people in northern and central California, could take precautionary measures to cut power to approximately 103,000 customers in 17 counties starting Monday to reduce the risk of its electrical appliances causing wildfires.
The state network operator called for power outages last month for the first time since 2001 when a heatwave struck California and other parts of the West. The state’s largest energy providers interrupted the power supply for several hundred thousand customers for two consecutive nights.
The second potential blackout threat in the PG&E area is a forest fire precaution. California utilities have used “public safety shutdowns” in recent years to turn off electricity in certain areas to reduce the risk of forest fires on their power lines when wind speeds rise. These safeguards are different from rolling power outages, which gradually move through target cities when power runs out.
California received electricity this summer during the heat waves in the later hours of the day. In order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the state has almost abolished coal burning and reduced reliance on natural gas power in favor of renewable energies.
That was a challenge for the supply when the demand for electricity increases. Solar energy production begins to decline in the early evening hours when electricity consumption peaks, reducing the capacity available during a supply crisis.
When demand increases, California relies more on imported electricity from neighboring states, and natural gas-fired power plants that can be up and running quickly are kept on standby. But imports won’t be available as quickly this weekend because the heat wave has weighed on supplies in other parts of the west, the network operator said.
In addition, forest fires in northern and southern California have affected transmission lines that carry electricity from hydroelectric plants and solar parks. On Sunday lunchtime, the network operator stated that it had lost up to 1,400 megawatts of generation.
Write to Katherine Blunt at Katherine.Blunt@wsj.com
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