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Will the power go out during this heat wave?

Uploaded: Sep 4, 2022

Our local power providers and our grid operator (CAISO) are asking us to conserve electricity over the next few days as record-breaking heat and heavy use of air conditioning strain the grid. Will our infrastructure be up to the task or are rolling blackouts headed our way?

Two years ago on August 14, 2020 was the last time we had a rolling blackout. Peak demand on the grid was about 47 GW in late afternoon. A severe heat wave across much of the southwest restricted imports and our grid operator (CAISO) had not planned well for that. Taken by surprise and unable to generate enough power to serve the load, they were also too late to request much help reducing demand. CAISO was forced to call for rolling blackouts.

Just a few days later, August 17 was a very different story. Peak demand was predicted to be even higher, around 50 GW at 5pm. But CAISO called for conservation earlier and more effectively, and there was a tremendous and unprecedented response, dropping demand by nearly 5 GW. I wrote about that here. No rolling blackouts were needed.

Electricity demand on August 17, 2020. Demand at 6:30 pm was forecast a day earlier to be almost 49 GW, as shown by the faint stair-step graph. Calls for conservation led to unprecedented savings, and demand instead was 44 GW, a remarkable 5 GW lower than forecast. Source: CAISO

Two years later, we face a similar event but with some generally beneficial differences. We have added more resources to the grid (1), including over 3 GW of batteries that can provide power when we need it. The heat wave does not blanket the Pacific Northwest, as it did two years ago; and there are no raging fires in that region as there were one year ago; so we should have more access to those imports. CAISO is much better prepared, and they are calling for conservation earlier and more effectively. A formal Emergency Load Reduction Program is on the books, paying $1000 per MWh reduced when an emergency is announced. We have more appliances that conserve automatically as needed, such as grid-tied appliances and chargers. And we have tightened up on some rules, like cutting back on exports during times like this. As a result, I am optimistic that there will be no outages this time around. But it’s not a given.

Why are grid operators concerned? Let’s look at the forecast for Tuesday, September 6. (Labor Day looks similar to Tuesday. Sunday September 4 and Wednesday September 7 are not quite as bad.)

Here is a graph of forecast demand on Tuesday. You can see that demand is topping out at over 50 GW.

Electricity demand forecast for September 6, 2022. The faint stepped green line shows the hourly demand forecast, topping out at over 50 GW between 5-6 pm. Source: CAISO

That is very high, but since we have many renewables on the grid, it is actually not as hard for us to meet this demand as it is to meet demand when the sun is getting lower. If you look at the demand minus what can be handled with solar and wind energy, which CAISO refers to as “net demand”, you can see the peak comes between 7 pm and 8 pm. The forecast is nearly 46 GW. The peak net demand last time we had a rolling blackout was only 42 GW..

Net electricity demand forecast for September 6, 2022 shows a peak of nearly 46 GW between 7-8 pm. Source: CAISO

How does this compare with what resources we anticipate having available on the grid at that time? Take a look at the graph below, particularly the green lines.

Forecast electricity demand and supply for September 6, 2022. The demand (faint stair-stepped curve in green) exceeds supply (heavy dashed curve in green) in the evening. The purple net demand and supply curves show similar. Source: CAISO

The heavy dashed green line shows supply, which is much greater when the sun is shining. As the sun sets, demand is forecast to outstrip supply from 6-8 pm. (The purple “net” curves show similar.) This is why your power provider is asking you to pre-cool your house midday and then use less air conditioning in the evening. The same applies for other power-hungry appliances like EV chargers, electric dryers, and pool pumps. Use the power a little earlier in the day or a little later.

Below is a close-up look at the 4-9pm interval. Normally the faint dotted line (demand) is below the corresponding dark dashed line (supply). But here they cross over between 6-8pm. The forecast gap between supply and demand is about 2.5 GW, a considerable amount.

CAISO is forecasting a shortfall in power supply of about 2.5 GW between 6-8 pm on Tuesday, September 6. At 6:30 pm, for example, demand (faint green) is forecast to be 52,759 MW while supply (heavy green) is forecast to be 50,258 MW. Source: CAISO

The demand forecast includes a 7.5% reserve margin that is set aside in case of a sudden failure of generation or transmission. It is appealing but incorrect to think of the “real” demand being 7.5% lower than shown above. It is extremely dangerous to run without reserves. Unexpected supply problems do happen, perhaps particularly during extreme events like this. Without reserves, such a failure could lead to a catastrophic grid collapse that could take a very long time to recover from. The grid operator therefore insists that reserve overruns be very temporary, on the order of 15 minutes.

On the other hand, the supply shown above is perhaps overly generous. The amount of resources that the grid has verified to be available to be brought online is about 2 GW lower, at 48,430 MW. Another 1,828 MW of “supply” is reflected in credits that power providers receive for some other types of resources. Will these accounting credits keep the lights on? It depends. Some of the credits might represent shares in a power plant that was jointly purchased. Those seem pretty legit. But others might represent “demand response” savings that a utility has said are available to reduce demand. These are not verified closely by the regulators, and those and other credits have been the source of much contention since the August 2020 rolling blackout. The forecast gap may therefore be larger than it appears.

You may be wondering, given this, why I am optimistic that we will keep the lights on. Several gigawatts is not easy to come by. Well, the 5 GW of reduced demand in August 2020 was really impressive, and it was repeated for several days. I am hopeful that people and businesses and manufacturers will again step up to the plate and dramatically cut back on power between 4-9pm, and especially 5-8pm. I am a little worried about Labor Day, since as a holiday it may be harder to cut back since fewer power-intensive operations may have been planned. But CAISO has better communications in place, and the CPUC has a formal program for emergency load reduction. Generally, we have planned for and thought much more about these events than we had two years ago. So I am hopeful.

If you want to follow along with what the grid is up to in these critical evening hours, you can find the current status at the top of CAISO’s “Today’s Outlook” page. You can expect to see Restricted Maintenance from noon through 10pm through at least September 8, and Flex Alerts from 4-9pm on those same days. I also fully expect to see Energy Emergency Alert Watch (EEA Watch) notifications for many of those days. These indicate a “day ahead” projected deficiency and are a call for more generation. We have already seen one issued for a few evening hours on each of August 31 and September 1, 3, and 4.

If these prove insufficient, real-time notices get increasingly more urgent. An Energy Emergency Alert 1 (EEA 1) is issued when, despite “day ahead” calls for more supply and reduced power, we are still facing a shortage within the next few hours. This first real-time alert means that more aggressive reductions in demand will be called for. For example, a demand-response event may take place, which will reduce power to grid-connected appliances. On August 31 an Alert 1 was issued from 5-8pm, and a demand-response event occurred briefly at 7:30pm.

The next-level alert, EEA 2, is issued when we are using up all power other than our reserves. It serves as a last-ditch request for resources. We have not seen one of these issued yet this year. The ultimate EEA 3 alert indicates that we have been forced to start using our reserves, and rolling blackouts are imminent or in progress.

What I predict will happen is that we will get to, but stop at, the EEA 1 stage. Organizations, manufacturers, and residents will reduce power use, particularly during the critical 5-8 pm period, and we will not have to resort to more disruptive emergency measures. Do your part: Between 5 and 8 pm the next few days, and especially on Monday and Tuesday, turn your thermostat to 78, use regular fans for extra cooling, postpone charging your EV, and wait to turn on high-powered appliances like electric dryers, pool pumps, ovens, and stoves. A little attention during a few evening hours will help to minimize the disruption caused by this record-setting heat wave.

What happens if we don’t get it together to do that? Our power providers will orchestrate rolling blackouts, most likely during that 5-8 pm interval. These will be announced in advance and will last between one and two hours each. Any given location should see at most one of these outages. Since most of us are familiar with the occasional power outage, this should not be a big deal. It will be shorter than many accidental outages and it will be announced in advance. I encourage you to ignore over-the-top guidance such as these tips provided by the San Francisco Chronicle urging you to prepare for rolling blackouts by assembling an emergency kit and creating an evacuation plan. That is nuts. This is a short, controlled, pre-announced power outage. Do what makes sense for your household. If that just means getting a cold drink, plugging in your phone, and making sure you know where a flashlight is, you’re not alone.

As summers get warmer and drier, it stresses the grid. Power plants may not run as efficiently, transmission lines lose more power, hydropower is limited, fires can impact generation and transmission, and people run far, far more air conditioning. On top of that, widespread heat waves and/or fires can reduce imports. But a carefully operated power grid can handle this, and only very rarely should it mean resorting to short, controlled rolling outages. (2) We do need to continue to grow and fortify the grid, and do it with as few emissions as possible in order not to make the summers even warmer and drier. We also need more grid-connected appliances so much of this “flex alert” business can get automated. (3) There is a danger that we will become deaf to these Flex Alerts if they are too frequent. In the meantime, we can all do our part to keep the lights on, and costs and pollution down, by using less power during critical evening hours over the coming record-setting hot days.

I will be adding updates in the comments below over the next few days.

Notes and References
1. CAISO reports that just since last summer we have added more than 4,000 megawatts (MW) of net qualifying capacity, 2751 MW of which is available at 8 pm.

2. The industry standard is that such outages happen less than once every 10 years. We are not there. CAISO estimates that we currently need about 1,700 MW more capacity to meet that target.

3. Has anyone enrolled in newer reward programs like evPulse (for EV charging) or WatterSaver (for heat pump water heaters)? Or more established ones like OhmConnect? Would love to hear your experience over the past week or so.

Current Climate Data (July 2022)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard

Last week I reported in this space that over 16% of light-duty vehicles sold in California this year were plug-in or fuel cell (hydrogen). That compares to just over 5% in the United States as a whole. The interesting stat for you this week is that, in China, 26% of new vehicle sales in 2022 were plug-in.

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Posted by CyberVoter, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Sep 4, 2022 at 9:58 am

CyberVoter is a registered user.

The obvious ? is what to do when you lose power? As we saw with the recent Emerald Hills fire, a power outage can be a week+. A prudent person should be researching the best power alternative for their situation. Between back-up generators powered by diesel fuel, gasoline, propane & your home's natural gas and battery storage, my personal choice is using my home's natural gas. The generator will run as long as the elect outages exists - even weeks/months.

Be prepared for the worst!

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 4, 2022 at 11:19 am

Bystander is a registered user.

The problem with power outage (let's say since the day of the longest outage I can remember due to the plane accident in EPA), is that we are more dependent on electricity than we were then.

We have more EVs that if they are not charged overnight they are useless to their owners for a day's commuting or what have you.

Many more people are working from home, using internet and devices to work, zoom, communicate with other business contacts all over the world. Setting up a conference zoom with people in four different countries, different time zones, who are busy with their business and personal lives means that no power can be costly to someone who is trying to sign a deal, or be interviewed on foreign "live" tv or similar important uses.

We have people being interviewed for jobs as well as doing the interviewing, doing college exams, or just speaking to a dying loved one in a hospital bed somewhere the other side of the world by skype.

It just isn't the fact that the lights go out or we may not be able to cook or do laundry. It just might be life changing issues that are affected.

The big picture is that we are more dependent on power than ever before.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 4, 2022 at 1:13 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

One reader chimed in by email: "I cannot help but wonder if someday we might be able to utilize all the parked EV cars in a reverse direction by discharging them slowly to add a bit of power to the grid in the evenings during peak usage."

My response: I completely agree. If we could get just 7 kW from 100,000 EVs (there are about 450,000 right now with a range of more than 200 miles), that would be 0.7 GW. And it's pretty easy for EV owners to very occasionally spare 3 hours x 7 kW = 20 kWh from a 60+ kWh battery. In five years, that could easily grow to 2 GW. That is enormous. I wonder what that much evening power costs. I wrote some about this and other uses of EV batteries here.

Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of JLS Middle School,
on Sep 4, 2022 at 3:12 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I don't have one of these but am contemplating... Web Link

Initially I was supposed to drive out of town on Friday to a much cooler place, however the wildfire situation scuttled that plan. Knowing I was going to be away for a couple of weeks, I had already consumed all of the perishables in the fridge. With the heat forecast when I knew I couldn't get out of town, I did not replenish the fridge, so nothing will spoil. I have lots of camping gear with gas cooking alternatives, and flashlights and candles galore. I think of the possibility of losing power as if I am going camping, in my own house. Being a minimalist, and "hot weather savvy", I have filled the tub with water in case something happens with our water supply, and have many gallons of drinking water on hand. I can flush with water from the tub, as well as using it for cooling down if there's no power for a fan. The worst aspect to having no power is no internet to know if any other imminent disasters are going to happen. But I have a very old .mp3 player that also has an AM/FM radio, so it's charged up and I would only have to use it occcasionally if I smelled smoke or hear sirens. If there's no radio signals I will just have to trust my intuition. But it's time like these when it's maddening not to be able to access local police scanners -- which wouldn't function without power anyway. I assume the internet provider would also go down, so I have a supply of paper with words on them. They are called "books" and used to have a multitude of purposes inside the covers. I don't have an electric car, and am glad of it now. We really need to develop affordable solar cars.

As a side note, if what's happening in Pakistan was happening here, we would be absolutely lost without outside help. Please give as generously as you can to a reputable agency that can help millions of Pakistanis right now.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 5, 2022 at 10:57 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

September 5 update: Happy Labor Day, and I hope everyone is able to keep cool! The grid managed well yesterday, with clear evidence of customers reducing their electricity usage in afternoon and evening, keeping demand below supply. See how the dark shaded areas (demand) stay below the heavy dashed lines (supply).

Today will be much tighter, and Tuesday even more so, as we hit record temperatures across the state and close in on record demand levels. The graph below shows a gap of up to 5 GW between supply and demand. An emergency alert (EEA-1) has been issued for 5-9 pm today. This is much more significant than the voluntary Flex Alert and means the grid operator will push aggressively for demand reductions during this interval. Please help out by avoiding use of air conditioners and other power-hungry appliances during this interval. As you can see below, the 6-8 pm interval is where our forecast demand most exceeds supply.

Again, please stay cool, this heat can be dangerous.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 5, 2022 at 6:50 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Labor Day today. Most people are not working so I am not sure if that translates to office buildings switching off the a/c. I imagine that people are finding somewhere cool to hangout, shopping malls or big box stores, theaters, libraries (if they are open for cooling centers) or similar.

The test would be a day when everyone is working in offices/schools and arriving home just at the time when power demand is highest, people want to do chores such as laundry, cook dinner, charge devices and importantly plug in EVs so that they will be fully charged for tomorrow. Some EV will need a good 8 hour or longer overnight charge. Some will want to stop off at a charging station on their homeward commute - possibly buying dinner while their EV charges. For many this is how they will prepare for using their EV the following day for commuting, errands, etc.

If temperatures remain as hot tomorrow as they are today, it will be a very different story.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 5, 2022 at 10:38 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Ha, in case you are wondering, this power outage (10:30 pm on Labor Day) seems to be a Palo Alto special. Not a rolling blackout, just the usual (ahem) Palo Alto outage...

Posted by chris aoki, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 9:15 am

chris aoki is a registered user.

Let's thank Gov. Newsom that we still have that 2.3 GW of energy provided
by the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Looking ahead as we nervously
monitor the CAISO graphs for energy supply to keep up with growing demand,
I'd like to remind everyone to follow the science and learn what we can do
to increase the supply of reliable carbon-free electrical power, slowing the
degradation of Earth's climate. In addition to using less energy.

Especially for high school and college-age students and their elders,
learn the basics of chemistry and physics. That's important for
understanding how nuclear reactors work, how modern reactor
designs improve reactor safety, and how the physics of radioactive
decay determines both the volume and required storage lifetime
of nuclear waste. It's also important for understanding how energy
storage works (thermal storage and hydrogen fuel generation and
storage) both independently of nuclear energy and with assistance
provided by modern nuclear reactor technology.

Arguing about whether or not to include nuclear energy in plans
for the future wastes time that we don't have in the here and now.
We need to get on the same page with respect to understanding
the science before such an argument will be productive.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 10:13 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

September 6 update: Oof. I guess this is what they mean by record-breaking. I hope everyone is doing okay.

Yesterday did not go so well on the grid. There was not enough conservation and around 6:30 pm an EEA-2 was issued, which is the level right before rolling blackouts.

Prices were sky-high. (Normally this would be, say, $50.)

The grid pulled out all stops. Look at this amount of batteries on the grid, well over 3 GW at peak power. For three critical hours, from 5:45-8:45 pm, the grid's battery storage discharged a Diablo Canyon's worth of energy. Incredible.

When the grid operator issued the EEA-2, they called for a “demand-response” event between 6:30 and 8:30, which automatically reduced demand.

It’s interesting to compare what the grid looked like at 6:20 pm, below, with reserves intact.

And then at 7 pm. The sun is setting, capacity dropped by 2.5 GW, but demand only dropped by 1 GW. We are eating into reserves, hence the EEA-2 alert.

We were just not able to conserve enough energy yesterday. I walked past Cubberley around 5:30 and the air conditioners were running full tilt in an empty facility. Maybe it’s because it was a holiday. Maybe today -- a working day -- will be better. But the heat is much worse and things didn’t cool off much over night. So …

My prediction for today is -- rolling blackouts between 6 and 9 pm. Charge your electronics, make sure your flashlight has batteries in it. If you can charge a battery or UPS that you can plug your router into when needed, so much the better. Please share any other tips in the comments.

And of course don't forget to cut back on energy use in late afternoon and evening. The most critical period looks to be 5-9 pm.

I understand there were also localized blackouts last night. Maybe that was from overloaded distribution networks. I’m not sure. I will try to learn more.

Anyway, stay safe everyone, I hope you are finding ways to stay cool.

Posted by Dean Samos, a resident of Los Altos,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:48 am

Dean Samos is a registered user.

How do we get electricity usage in unused facilities reduced? As you mentioned, air conditioning was running at Cubberley with no one there - that's just ridiculous. How do we get lights, AC, fans, etc. off in buildings that aren't occupied?

I don't have AC at home, so there's only so much I can do to reduce my usage, but I'll do what I can between 4-9.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 12:32 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

I hope everyone is doing their part to conserve. Rolling blackouts could be next.

The SF Chronicle advice is wise. Evacuation is always part of the plan for weather related situations/emergencies. A rolling blackout could be a simple inconvenience to some, and a matter of health and safety to others. There are elderly people on oxygen, etc. etc. etc. and having an emergency kit and an evacuation plan could be a matter of life and death.

Stay cool!

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 1:25 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Thanks for the update! Yes, south PA along both sides of Arastradero from ECR up to Gunn High was blacked out from 10:30-1:30 last night. Too bad the sky wasn't clearer, as it was nice to view the stars without ANY local lights around.

Posted by chris aoki, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 2:39 pm

chris aoki is a registered user.

Sherry Listgarten,
At about 11 am earlier this morning, you wrote:

The grid pulled out all stops. Look at this amount of batteries on the grid,
well over 3 GW at peak power. For three critical hours, from 5:45-8:45 pm,
the grid's battery storage discharged a Diablo Canyon's worth of energy.

I agree that the grid's battery response was impressive. However, I hope that you
are not suggesting that grid scale batteries are sustainable over many hours, days,
or weeks, let alone 24x7x52 reliable operation.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 6, 2022 at 6:55 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

... and, we are having a rolling outage, at least in Palo Alto. It won't affect everyone, but it will affect some of you. I think that every effort was made to avoid this, but at the same time this isn't surprising. It was a very very difficult day to match demand and supply. But we will keep getting better at it. I'll do a full update tomorrow morning. I hope everyone is doing okay.

Posted by Walter Sobchak, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 7:01 am

Walter Sobchak is a registered user.

Remember that it was (checks notes) Vladimir Putin who forced California for 20+ years to spend billions on the most expensive and least reliable sources of “clean energy."

It's going to get tough when they require 100% electric vehicles. We are not led by serious people.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 8:01 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Forget about privately owned vehicles for a moment.

We have electric buses, electric utilities collecting vehicles, Caltrain, etc. How are we going to get them charged when the State is unable to guarantee power in hot weather? Will these public vehicles have special dispensation to enable them to be charged? I know BART and probably Caltrain have different circuits within the grid, but how about all the other public charged EVs?

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 9:13 am

Bystander is a registered user.

And another outage today, Wednesday morning.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 10:36 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

September 7 update: We made it through yesterday in what I would say was spectacular fashion. It was the hottest day in a record-setting heat wave, and the grid smashed the record for all-time peak demand, hitting 52,061 MW when the previous record was 50,270 MW in July 2006. And yet the grid managed to stay up with no call for rolling outages. This is due in large part to efforts that many of you made to conserve energy in late afternoon and evening. It made a huge difference.

Trouble started brewing around 2 pm, when the grid operator (CAISO) issued a Stage 2 alert, which means we are in danger of having to use our reserves and we have to urgently reduce demand and increase supply. As you may recall, demand peaks around 4-5 pm, but then the sun really starts going down. Supply plummets and demand does not drop as quickly. So the strain on the grid actually increases. See this graph of Supply on the grid on September 6 and see what happens to renewables (largely solar) between 5-7 pm.

The demand curve doesn’t go down so quickly, so the grid gets increasingly squeezed. At 5:17pm, CAISO declared a Stage 3 Emergency, which means there's nothing left but reserves on the grid. This is about as bad as it gets.

This alert level means rolling outages are imminent. If needed, CAISO can use those to force demand to come down in a controlled fashion. In a last-ditch effort to avoid these, Governor Newsom issued a statewide alert at 5:45 pm urgently asking everyone to reduce demand. You may have received an alert on your phone.

The grid also took advantage of its ability to cut back power to grid-tied appliances, using a demand-response event. You can see the decrease below as the grid fought to cut back demand as our solar supply dropped, particularly at 5:45 pm when the mobile alert was issued. Many of you contributed to this drop in demand of several gigawatts.

As you can see in the first graph above, showing the power supply mix over the course of the day, CAISO also ramped up batteries, flexible hydropower, and imports during this critical period. The graph below shows that imported energy went from 4.5 GW at 3pm to 9 GW at 8pm. Imports like this were not available to Texas during its power crisis last winter because it chooses to operate its grid in isolation from other states. CAISO’s ability to import power keeps our energy cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable than it would otherwise be.

A few cities with municipal utilities did reduce power via a rolling outage because of a mistaken communication from the Northern California Power Agency. At 6:29pm Palo Alto cut off power to several neighborhoods, affecting about 1700 households. Power was restored about 30 minutes later, shorter than a typical rolling outage. More information about that very problematic miscommunication can be found here.

All in all, this was a truly remarkable accomplishment by all of you, and the grid operator, to keep things largely up and running during an unprecedented day of heat.

Today and tomorrow call for more record-setting demand (well, if we ignore yesterday’s record), so please continue to cool your home off during the day and reduce power in the evening, particularly from 5-9 pm.

Posted by chris aoki, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 11:09 am

chris aoki is a registered user.

Sherry Listgarten,
Thanks for the update and the informative data, including the
numbers about imports that "went from 4.5 GW at 3pm to 9 GW at 8pm."
Does CAISO tell the public where the imports came from?

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Hey Chris. When I wrote this post I guessed the Pacific Northwest, since the heat wave didn’t extend that far. That seems to be correct, at least for September 5. (I don’t see data for September 6 yet.)

As a reminder, here is a picture of the Western Energy Imbalance Market, which is the extended market that CAISO participates in that allows it to import and export power to other grid operators.

You can see the import/export data for September 5 here.

In particular, look at the Bonneville Power Administration, located in the Pacific Northwest. It joined the market only this year, and look at the impact it is making, exporting 4 GW of power during our critical evening period on September 5.

Here are the prices it got (dark is the 15-minute market, light is real-time). Do you think they are happy about their decision to join?

You can also see Powerex of Vancouver, in British Columbia, chipping in 2 GW at that time. They joined in 2018.

Both Bonneville and Powerex are almost entirely (maybe entirely?) hydropower.

Arizona Public Service also helped out a little later in the evening (a mix of gas, nuclear, and coal for the most part).

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:15 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

I think any case of even "minimal rolling outages" in a situation (rising temperatures) that has been predicted over and over for at least twenty years counts as a "fail" rather than "spectacular fashion". No need to over-cheerlead. The unintended consequence may be that more folks will now install fossil-fuel powered backup generators. We are considering this, as they seem to be cheaper for both equipment and installation than a battery system as I understand it.

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:47 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

And now the Mercury News is reporting that Tuesday's rolling blackout was just a mistake in communication:
"...electric regulators said California avoided rolling blackouts Tuesday just in time for cooler weather. So why did several thousand people in Palo Alto, Alameda and Healdsburg lose power?

Those Northern California cities and others may have inadvertently initiated rolling blackouts in error following a miscommunication with the California Independent System Operator Tuesday after it declared a rare stage 3 emergency..."

:( :( :(

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 2:00 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Mondoman: FWIW, I specifically asked Palo Alto Utilities about that possibility and they said no, their action was in response to a specific CAISO request, and noted that it happened in at least six cities. They added that CAISO would be issuing a clarification to that effect. I have not heard back from CAISO on this issue. I will post any updates that I get here.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 3:04 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Yes, CAISO said there was a miscommunication by the Northern California Power Agency that was working with the city utilities. CAISO said they will try to be clearer next time to avoid such mistakes. And here is a writeup from NCPA about that.

Posted by chris aoki, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 4:20 pm

chris aoki is a registered user.

Dear Sherry,
Thanks for the additional info, especially the maps showing the
larger scope including CAISO's regional neighbors. We are all
fortunate that the drainages of the Columbia and Fraser rivers
are not seriously impacted by drought. Yet.

But (portion removed)

Blogger's note: Chris is an enthusiastic proponent of nuclear energy. However, I object to posters repeatedly using questions and remarks in this comment space to promote a specific agenda. This does happen most often pro/con with nuclear, so please use this space for more of that: Web Link

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 4:21 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Sherry, I hope you are doing a spreadsheet with all these reasons.

Squirrel (today was a squirrel), geese, seagull, balloons, tree branches fallen, downed trees, equipment failure, poor maintenance, plane crash.

It will be interesting reading to see which one tops the league table.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 4:49 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Bystander, I am not, but you know who should be? The City of Palo Alto Utilities. And they should publish it every year. I do think they are making more of an effort to report on these outages. But a summary is important too. If they don't, I will, but I'd rather they do it.

I would also like to see a postmortem on how the Northern California Power Agency misinterpreted a communication from CAISO that resulted in power mistakenly being shut off to thousands of homes. That is pretty inexcusable. Our utility should be asking to see that CAISO communication and following up on who was in charge at NCPA, etc. I will ask about this. Update: Just as I typed this, Palo Alto Utilities sent me this explanation of what happened. It looks like NCPA is taking this very seriously, as they should.

Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of JLS Middle School,
on Sep 7, 2022 at 11:42 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I am concerned about elderly/disabled folks who arent aware of the states requirements for advance notice of outages, but need them. There isnt time to get signed up during a climate crisis. I decided to bail, not a fan of extreme heat. I am afraid this is 'new normal". I fear for the safety of the elderly and disabled, and feel so bad for kids who have inherited what we have left to them. The old Cat Stevens song keeps running through my mind -- "Where Do The Children Play". Quite prophetic. I know this article is about the grid and all the numbers that go with it but Im not a scientist. Just a fellow Earthling trying to make sense of it all.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 8, 2022 at 9:24 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

For those of you interested in where we got some extra power on that toughest of days, September 6, check out the exports from the Bonneville Power Administration, a new addition to the Western Energy Imbalance Market. That is almost 5.5 GW during our peak crunch time. Amazing.

And they were getting some terrific prices, $1000+ per MWh on the 15-minute market and $500+ on the real-time market.

It looks to me, for the 8 hours between 2-10pm, to be about 4500 MW per hour * 8 hours * $750/MWh = $27 million. This is why the state asks us to conserve...

Posted by BobB, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Sep 9, 2022 at 2:15 pm

BobB is a registered user.

Wow, 5.5 GW of hydropower from Bonneville Power Administration is quite a lot. More than two Diablo Canyon power plants.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 11, 2022 at 11:49 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Fourth outage in 7 days and nothing from utilities to explain what happened.

Our power is unreliable.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 11, 2022 at 3:25 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Another outage last night andor this morning =- with no messages, alerts or bulletins from CPAU.

Anyone know how widespread this one was or what the cause?

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 11, 2022 at 4:17 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

4.15 Sunday afternoon, still nothing from utilities. I suppose they think that being in the early hours of Sunday morning and restored before breakfast time, that we would not notice.

Our power is unreliable and our utilities don't appear to care.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 12, 2022 at 1:27 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Monday lunchtime, and still nothing from utilities or PAW about Sunday's outage. Silence is deafening.

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