Heat-Related Blackouts Possible Through Wednesday

power pole
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Despite warnings, there were no new emergency power shutoffs in the Bay Area overnight after 220,000 PG&E customers lost power Saturday. But the heat wave is still going and energy officials say heat-related blackouts could continue into the week.

Cal ISO, the state agency which monitors the electric grid, has issued a flex alert through Wednesday. 

Diana Contreras with PG&E told KCBS Radio that means customers should watch their energy use, especially during peak hours. One way to do that is to avoid using major appliances unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“The air conditioner can account for up to 40% of your electric bill. Now is the time to switch out your filters, take a look at your ductwork, anything to help that air conditioner run more efficiently. Or maybe even turn it up one degree, just one degree can make a big difference,” she explained.

Conservation is key, as is preparation for outages that could come anytime over the next few days.

“Always plan for a potential outage with flashlights and batteries and radios, and do all the things that you need to do to keep your family safe,” said Contreras.

While blackouts normally last only a few hours, some PG&E customers are still in the dark after outages hit Saturday.

“I called, it appears they don’t even have anybody in the field, they don’t have any updates, they don’t have any information,” said Jeffrey Wood, who lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “To be abandoned like this and without them - it appears they don’t even care.”

PG&E spokesperson Jeff Smith said that while most customers will have their power restored quickly, there are small, isolated instances where some people can be in the dark for days.

The heat wave is hitting most of the western U.S., which means there is a major demand for power.

“It is very hard to balance the system because we’re having a hard time buying power from other states,” explained Severin Borenstein, Director of the Energy Institute at UC Berkeley and a member of Cal ISO’s Governing Board.

The flex alerts are in effect from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day through Wednesday.