California’s record-breaking heatwave is coming on heavy this September and it is pushing the power grid to a breaking point. Last week, the California ISO, which oversees California’s power grid, issued several ‘flex alerts’, which asks residents to reduce their energy use and avoid using large appliances or charging electric vehicles between 4 pm to 9 pm. Alerting people when’s the best time to use less electricity seems to be working, as on Tuesday, September 6, after the flex alert at 6 pm, the grid operator saw an almost instant drop in demand of around 2,000 megawatts over the next 20 to 30 minutes! Thanks to the collective power of the people of taking the power into their own hands. Get rewarded for using less electricity
While most Californians conserved energy voluntarily, there is an incentive program
for Bay Area residents who reduced their energy consumption during these heatwaves. Meltek,
an official partner of Marin Clean Energy (MCE)
, rewards Napa, Solano, Contra Costa and Marin County residents for their effort in conserving energy every day between 4 pm – 9 pm. The more watts they save, the higher their rewards. The incentives for each watt saved are multiplied
during these grid emergencies as we want to reward them for their efforts during times of need. Those who signed up with Meltek
were able to trade their energy savings for rewards in places like Amazon, CVS, Uber, DoorDash, Nike and more. They could also further increase their environmental impact by funding trees in sensitive forests or buying carbon offsets.
The lowered demand from Meltek Members takes the pressure off grid congestion (a win for preventing blackouts) and members receive rewards that can add up to hundreds of dollars saved per year in return (a win for consumers).
Graph above from Bloomberg Green. Why are heatwaves so damaging to the grid?
The power grid is simple unprepared for climate change and the extreme heat it is bringing. To keep demand and supply under control, grid operators would need to make the difficult choice to cut power to thousands of homes.
First, more people turn on their air conditioners and run them for longer on hot days, which means electricity demand is much higher.
Second, heat has a physical impact on the infrastructure of the grid, making wires less efficient at moving electricity and pushing transformers and thermal power plants to their temperature limits. As the temperature rises, those air conditioners must work harder to cool the air — which means they draw more power, straining the grid even further.
Below you can see how temperatures broke records for various California locations during Labor Day.
Source: NWS Bay Area Twitter Post.