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Text Message Averts Grid Collapse as California Faces Record Heat

power pylons sunrise grid

A text message may have saved the California power grid from crashing under the weight of a devastating heat wave Tuesday afternoon.

“Extreme heat is straining the state energy grid,” the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) announced at 5:48 PM local time. “Power interruptions may occur unless you take action. Turn off or reduce nonessential power if health allows, now until 9 PM.”

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And “within five minutes, the grid emergency was all but over,” Bloomberg Green reports. Electricity demand plummeted by 1.2 gigawatts between 5:50 and 5:55 PM, then continued to fall in the hours that followed.

Bloomberg says some of those savings may have come from three San Francisco-area cities that missed the emergency memo and initiated power cuts. But “by 8 PM, the grid operator cancelled the highest level of emergency without calling for power cuts. More than 500,000 homes and businesses had been warned earlier in the day that they might lose service,” after a day in which Sacramento reported a high temperature of 116°F/47°C, its highest since record-keeping began in 1849.

“Record-breaking temperatures. More demand on our energy grid than ever before. But we avoided emergency power outages tonight,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted from his re-election campaign account. “We can do this. If we keep it up we can get through this unprecedented heat wave.”

Earlier in the day, electricity demand hit 52 GW, “easily breaking a record that stood since 2006,” Bloomberg wrote, citing CAISO data. “Much of California remains under an excessive heat warning through Friday, with authorities already preparing for more severe pressure on the power system on Wednesday.”