Widespread Power Outages Across California’s Bay Area After Emergency Is Declared

Widespread power outages were being reported on Tuesday morning across California’s Bay Area region, according to the state’s largest utility, amid high temperatures and statewide “Flex Alerts.”

Pacific Gas & Electric reported more than 20,000 customers in the North Bay, South Bay, and East Bay had lost power on Monday afternoon. That number dropped to fewer than 10,000 across the region, PG&E said on Tuesday.

Officials told KRON that on Monday, more than 5,600 people lost power in Livermore, 2,100 lost power in Cupertino, about 2,080 lost power in Pleasant Hill, 1,900 lost power in Morgan Hill, and 1,580 lost power in Santa Clara.

This week, the California Independent System Operator declared an energy emergency to prevent possible blackouts.

It came as temperatures reached over 100 degrees F on Monday in San Jose, a city of more than 1 million people, and are expected to hit 106 degrees on Tuesday afternoon. Oakland is slated to experience 93-degree temperatures on Tuesday.

Temperatures in Sacramento, the capital of California, and other parts of the Central Valley hit more than 110 degrees F on Monday and are forecast to reach 115 degrees Tuesday.

Because of the heat, California’s grid operator issued a statewide Flex Alert for Monday and extended it to Tuesday. The National Weather Service also issued an excessive heat warning for most of the Bay Area until Thursday.

“We have now entered the most intense phase of this heat wave,” Eliot Mainzer, the head of the California Independent System Operator, or Cal ISO, said on Monday. “Efforts to flex electricity demand away from those critical hours of 4 to 9 p.m. have been working well and we really appreciate it,” he also said.

The Flex Alert also called on residents to not charge their electric vehicles between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., coming as the California Air Resources Board voted in August to ban the sale of all new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Critics of the move say that the California grid cannot handle the strain of more electric vehicles.

The grid operator said that people should also avoid using major appliances, turn off unnecessary lights, set the thermostat to 78 degrees, use fans for cooling, and unplug unused items.

But if grid conditions deteriorate on Tuesday, the operator would ask some utilities to begin shutting down. That would lead to even more blackouts.

California relies heavily on solar power—a situation that poses a problem for the state when the sun sets—rather than coal or natural gas, and it is forced to import energy from other states in periods of high demand. Due to drought conditions, the state’s hydroelectric power capacity has diminished in recent years.