Electrical grids aren’t prepared for the increasing power demands brought on by climate change, experts said.,


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Turn off your lights and turn up the heat, all of California is told in a plea for power conservation.

Power lines in Redondo Beach, Calif. Experts have said that power grid regulators across the country, not just in California, haven’t adequately prepared for the extreme effects of climate change.Credit…Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images

July 28, 2021, 3:16 p.m. ET

After a brief respite this week, during which some Californians saw rain for the first time in months, the state’s energy grid operators are again urging residents to conserve power as temperatures climb.

The California Independent System Operator issued what is known as a “flex alert” for the entire state for 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday. That means that demand for electricity is expected to surge during those hours as residents crank up air-conditioners and turn on fans in an effort to stay cool amid dangerously hot and dry conditions.

So officials are effectively begging Californians to delay using their washing machines, turn off unnecessary lights and set their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, in order to avoid triggering blackouts.

Due to heat and tight supply conditions, the California ISO has issued a statewide #FlexAlert for Wednesday, July 28, from 4-9 p.m. encouraging consumers to conserve energy to help alleviate stress on the #powergrid. Read the news release: https://t.co/67ywD0F1J9 pic.twitter.com/cTBodENmN2

— California ISO (@California_ISO)

July 28, 2021

Experts say that a confluence of factors are likely to make such calls for conservation more frequent and more urgent.

Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said late last month that California imports more than a third of its electricity from other states. As heat waves bake huge swaths of the United States — not just California — energy supplies have been strained, leaving grid operators and state officials with few options.

“Now it’s not just California’s grid reliability you have to worry about,” Mr. Hirs said. “It’s your neighbors’.”

That’s what happened last year: When a heat wave walloped California, power was cut to millions of people, in a debacle reminiscent of the energy crisis that pummeled the state 20 years ago.

Gov. Gavin Newsom demanded an investigation and sharply criticized grid operators for failing to properly plan for a heat wave they knew for days was coming. “Grid operators were caught flat footed, unable to avert disruptive blackouts and to adequately warn the public,” he wrote in a terse letter to energy officials at the time.

But experts have said that power grid regulators across the country, not just in California, haven’t adequately prepared for the extreme effects of climate change. Mr. Hirs cited the catastrophic outages that left 69 percent of Texans without electricity and half without water in February — the result of an unusual winter storm.

“This year and next year, in Texas and California, we’re” in trouble, Mr. Hirs said. “Especially with the hydroelectric plants at less than full power because of the drought.”