The long-lasting heat wave that settled over the U.S. West in early September set record high temperatures and created an energy emergency for Californians. According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento reached 116 degrees on Tuesday, September 6, surpassing a record set almost 100 years ago. San Jose, Death Valley, Stockton, and Fresno all broke heat records, not only for extreme temperatures but for how long they lasted. In addition to the record setting heat, California’s demand for electricity also broke an all-time record with peak demand reaching 52,061 megawatts.
Governor Newsom and California’s Independent System Operator (CAISO), our electric grid operator, took action to increase energy supplies and reduce demand to avoid impending rolling blackouts. FLEX alerts were issued and Californians were urged to reduce energy use between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. by setting thermostats to 78 degrees, unplugging unused electronic devices, turning off unnecessary lights, and avoiding the use of major appliances. Climate change is exacerbating heat wave intensity and duration, and California, along with other Western states, is struggling to keep the levels of supply and demand in balance creating wider system risks and potential failures.
Self-powered home equipped with solar panels and Tesla Powerwall
The good news is that despite record-high energy demand across the State, California avoided widespread rolling blackouts thanks to participation by our State’s residents who responded to FLEX alerts as well as an unprecedented emergency alert sent via text message from the California Office of Emergency Services informing residents to conserve power.
By 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6, the operator downgraded the alert stating that consumer conservation played a crucial part in offsetting demand on the grid and protecting grid reliability. While the operator didn’t call for rolling blackouts, three Northern California cities experienced brief power outages and although California residents heeded the call, nearly 8,000 customers lost power.
Despite largely successful energy conservation efforts on September 6, 2022, the impact of today’s extreme weather patterns and known future trajectory for increased oppressive heat days on our power systems is clear. Energy experts agree and are sounding the alarm that the US electric grid is not designed to withstand the impacts of climate change. According to a recent report on CNN, researchers found that weather-related outages in the past 10 years have increased by 64% compared with the previous decade. “This is really something that we should be concerned about because this is affecting all of us and we’re seeing more of them,” Kaitlyn Trudeau, data analyst with Climate Central who worked on the report, told CNN.
Energy experts have warned that increased Flex Alerts and the potential for rolling blackouts are likely to continue occurring each summer due to extreme weather events and lack of current capacity in California’s energy portfolio. Fortunately, electric customers can be a part of the clean energy solution by taking advantage of new energy programs that weren’t available even a year ago to both support the grid, as well as be compensated for their participation. New grid-connected technologies in the form of virtual power plants are enabling greater resiliency and affordability for customers by bringing solar powered batteries where it’s needed most, at homes and businesses. Expanding public participation in these types of collective clean energy programs by engaging energy users throughout the year will help transition California’s existing infrastructure away from fossil fuels and enable dependable renewable power access at a time when the climate’s impact on quality of life is more urgent than ever.
Swell Energy (Swell) is one company creating programs in California that are actively helping the transition to the greater adoption of renewable energy. Swell provides solar plus energy storage home energy solutions as well as commercial system design and installation. Swells renewable energy systems ensure reliable power at their location while reducing demand on the electric grid during peak energy use periods and locking in fixed energy costs. In addition to helping consumers adopt renewable energy, Swell is working with California’s utilities to create virtual power plant programs throughout the State that further incentivize clean energy adoption. These virtual power plant programs pay customers GridRevenue™ for allowing Swell to manage customer sited energy resources when it is most valuable to the grid. Customers retain pre-set energy reserves in their batteries to ensure backup power in the event of a power outage.
Swell is also collaborating with community organizations, like Sierra Club, to provide additional incentives for customers adopting clean and reliable energy solutions. Through the partnership, Angeles club members receive $500 cash back on the installation of solar, energy storage or both and Swell Energy will donate $500 to the Sierra Club on the member’s behalf. Additional incentives are available for customers joining Swell’s virtual power plants. To learn more or to get a quote for adding a Tesla Powerwall battery to your existing solar or a new solar + battery system visit: https://swellenergy.com/sierraclubangeles/
As extreme weather becomes more prevalent, urgent clean energy solutions are needed to provide reliable power. California can set an example for achieving both reliability and sustainability by investing in innovative programs like virtual power plants. Individuals with solar and energy storage can more meaningfully address climate change and energy challenges by joining virtual power plant programs and tapping into the greater potential of their home energy system. Increasingly we will all be asked to step up and help the grid. Whether that means conserving power during times of crisis or becoming part of the larger solution by adopting renewable energy and participating in virtual power plants, all Californians have a stake in the State’s energy future.