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Will you beat the heat or relent? California heat wave taxes power grid

Children cool off in a fountain on a hot day.
Children cool off in a fountain on a hot day.

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It's expected to be in the Southland today. Parts of the inland valleys reached 109 degrees yesterday, according to the Weather Service. It's all taxing on the power grid, so a statewide alert has been sounded.

California's electricity grid operator issued a Flex Alert yesterday that will last through today, but wasn't expected to last through the weekend. Businesses and homes are asked to "take three simple actions: turn off all unnecessary lights; postpone using major appliances until after 6 p.m.; and adjust your air conditioning up to 78 degrees or higher or use a fan."

Adding to the power pains, a large power plant in Ventura County went offline unexpectedly yesterday. GenOn Energy, which owns the Ormond Beach Generating Station, said the outage was caused by an electrical fire. A CAISO spokeswoman told the L.A. Times that the outage "was definitely a big factor in why we triggered the Flex Alert."

The peak air conditioning rush hour, as it’s called, is between 4 and 6 p.m. in the afternoon which is when officials are particularly concerned about energy use.

"A lot of people come home and they want to cool down their homes and so they start cranking up the AC which pulls a lot of juice," said Steven Greenlee, spokesman for the California Independent System Operation (CAISO).

Not all residents feel that the Flex Alert is their problem. Scott from Beverly Hills says that it’s not our job to suffer in order for the power grid to work correctly.

“It’s the job of the people at the power company to make sure we all have sufficient AC,” he added.

Greenlee says that the Flex Alert is voluntary and that most consumers have been responsive to the program which has helped the power companies save energy.

He is also confident in the current grid system which experienced chronic blackouts in 2000 and 2001.

"We have done quite a bit in upgrades on our system. We have been putting in place the generation and transmission that we need to help support our growing state. Those are in place. Other issues aside, looking forward, we're looking good," Greenlee added.

Weigh In:

Can one outage really take us to the limit? Will you take those three "simple actions" at home to help out? What about at the office?


Steven Greenlee, Spokesman, California Independent System Operator (CAISO)