Saturday, June 18, 2016

California Grid Operator Anticipates High Demand June 2016

Subtitle: Heat Wave in Late June to Test Grid due to Gas Shortage

The first heat wave of the season is upon us here in Sunny Southern California, home of Southern California Edison, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and San Diego Gas and Electric, three of the major electric utilities in the area.   The California electrical grid is operated by the Independent System Operator, ISO or CAISO as it is also known.  ISO issued a stern warning letter yesterday, June 17, which is copied below.  

The context for the concern is that California has inadequate natural gas storage presently, but also has a large percentage of natural-gas fired power plants.  There are also two nuclear reactors (2200 MWe at max), geothermal, wind, solar, hydroelectric, and imported power available from the northwest states.   On a good day in the summer, renewables combine to produce approximately 180,000 MWh or 30 percent of total demand.   Thursday, June 16, 2016 was such a day.   

The natural gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon (near Los Angeles) suffered a major leak that was stopped and repaired in the past few months. see link  However, authorities will not allow the reservoir to be filled again until assurance is provided that another leak will not occur.  The result is a heat wave in which high electric demand will occur, natural gas fired power plants need gas to run, and a shortage of natural gas exists.   Therefore, the plea went out for all consumers to conserve.   

------------ Letter from ISO begins --------------------------
"June 17, 2016
ISO Logo

The ISO is preparing for state heat wave to ensure grid reliability; 
Flex Alert for voluntary electricity conservation likely to be issued next week

With record-setting heat expected in Southern California early next week, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) is preparing for potential stress on the electricity system and may issue a Flex Alert asking consumers to conserve energy to help prevent rotating power outages.

Electricity demand is expected to rise during the unseasonable heat wave on Monday and Tuesday, June 20 and 21, with forecasted system-wide energy use expected to exceed 46,000 megawatts. That total is slightly lower than the system peak demand last year of 47,358 megawatts. The all-time record peak of 50,270 megawatts was set in July 2006.

"We are confident we have a strong plan in place to meet the operational challenges posed by the upcoming hot temperatures," said ISO CEO and President Steve Berberich. "Conservation efforts by consumers are key to reducing stress on the system and to help avoid service disruptions."

The ISO is working with Southern California Gas Company, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, utilities, and the state's energy agencies to mitigate any potential reliability issues related to the limited operations of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. The coordination and planning underway is critical to averting or minimizing power outages. Click here to view the ISO's Aliso Canyon Summer Preparedness Plan.

If conditions don't ease, the ISO is prepared to issue a Flex Alert for Southern California for Monday, calling on consumers to conserve energy. Another Flex Alert calling for statewide conservation may be necessary on Tuesday, as triple-digit temperatures are expected in many areas of the state.

Flex Alerts urge consumers to turn off all unnecessary lights, use major appliances only after 9 p.m., and set air conditioners to 78 degrees or higher. Consumers taking these steps can help prevent more serious power grid emergencies, including electricity outages.

Notifications that a Flex Alert has been called will be sent via the ISO's mobile app "ISO Today," posted to, the ISO's website at; on Twitter @California_ISO; and on Facebook.

Click here to find out more about Flex Alert and to sign up for email and text notifications.

When a Flex Alert is called take three simple actions:

• Set thermostat at 78° or higher and turn off, if away

• Cool with fans and draw drapes

• Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances

• Use major appliances in morning or late evening

Flex Alerts

The California ISO issues a Flex Alert when the grid is under stress to meet demand from generation or transmission outages, or from persistent hot temperatures.

Flex Alerts call for voluntary conservation before the ISO needs to start using energy reserves to maintain reliability. Conservation helps ease demand to avoid taking further steps to balance supply and demand, such as, in the extreme, local power interruptions."
-----------------  (end of ISO message) --------------


The state has had heat waves before.  In mid-September of 2012 there were two consecutive days of 100-degrees in Los Angeles.  The same occurred in 2010, where the second day reached 110 degrees F.   In 2009, 100-degrees occurred on one day in April, four consecutive days in August, and two consecutive days in September.  In 2008, the same 100-degree heat occurred in the last day of September and first of October.  In 2007, it was the first two days of September.  

A voluntary demand reduction program exists, in which some consumers turn off their non-essential power uses in exchange for slightly reduced power prices.  Typically, government offices close during such times.   The wisdom of this strategy is dubious, as workers then go home and turn on their air conditioners.   Perhaps the thinking is that the workers will be trapped in traffic and cannot make it to their homes to turn on the air conditioners.   Instead, they sit idling for hours in vehicles that burn gasoline.  

There are, in fact, a few more coping strategies that many of us use during such heat waves and power emergencies.   First, it is useful to drape a quilt or blanket over the closed blinds at windows and glass doors.  The quilt serves as insulation to block heat flow into the house.  Second, it is useful to freeze plastic jugs of water in advance in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator, or a separate freezer.    The plastic jugs of ice are then placed in shallow pans in a room, where they serve to chill the air.   A small portable fan can be used to circulate the chilled air.  

For those that want to follow the electrical grid status, here is the link to the California ISO website.  The graph shows present demand, projected demand and past demand for a 24-hour period.  see link

Update 1:  6/19/2016:  Downtown Los Angeles did not reach 100 deg F today, the peak was 96 degrees at 1:47 pm local.  Not much of a heat wave compared to the past decade (see above).

Second point, yes, as some readers pointed out, counting to four is not a strength at the CAISO in writing their advisories.   Their letter (in its entirety above) states there are "three simple actions" to take when a Flex Alert is issued, then lists four things.   Three, four, what difference does it make.   The grid is stressed and consumer conservation is a big help, indeed necessary. 

Third point, a Flex Alert has been issued for Monday June 20, for Southern California.   A second Flex Alert has been issued for Tuesday for the entire state.    --   end update 1. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

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