Energy imports, energy conservation, new storage capacity, and effective communication helped California avoid blackouts during a record-setting September heat wave.
“Because of greater regional coordination, reciprocity, and cooperation within the market, significant amounts of imported energy were available during the most stressed grid conditions,” the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) said in a recent report.
Heat waves are a growing threat for grid operators that need to accommodate high power demand for air conditioning. They sometimes resort to rolling outages if that demand exceeds grid capacity.
CAISO was put to the test during a 10-day heat wave with temperatures as high as 46.6°C/116°F on September 6, and a record peak load of 52,061 megawatts, Utility Dive reports. But the lights stayed on, thanks to several recent market enhancements outlined in CAISO’s report. The list included clearer scheduling priorities, better resource sufficiency evaluations, market incentives for power generation during high demand, and new infrastructure that added 60 storage resources with more than 4,000 megawatts of storage capacity and 15,000 megawatt-hours’ capability.
It also helped that owners of fossil-fueled power plants have worked to improve the performance of their fleets in the last two years, CAISO said. And the grid operator was able to import energy from areas with lower heat stress—like the Desert Southwest and Pacific Northwest—to help with high demand.
“Despite the stressed system conditions during the heat wave, the market honoured all wheeling-through market transactions that enable electricity to flow through the ISO but do not serve ISO load,” CAISO said.
But the operator’s response wasn’t without some hiccups. Storage resources were undercharged early in the day because of a software issue. But an effective response from consumers after CAISO’s calls to cut electricity use lowered demand by about 1,200 megawatts.
“As we continue to integrate new resources onto the grid and make other necessary adjustments, our experience and lessons learned during the September, 2022, heat wave will help us navigate the next climate-driven challenge,” CAISO said.