Local energy experts explain why so many Flex Alerts lately and share potential solutions

California

(KTXL) – With California’s electric grid operator issuing more frequent Flex Alerts lately, local energy experts are offering insight as to why the state is facing power supply issues.

“This is really the new normal, these weather events are becoming more and more common and more and more frequent,” said Leah Rubin Shen, the director of the Advanced Energy Economy.  

“I think we will be seeing at least flex alerts for this summer and perhaps for the next couple,” said James Bushnell, former research director at the UC Berkeley Energy Institute and professor of economics at UC Davis.

The California Independent System Operator that controls the state’s power grid said a fire in southern Oregon has been threatening transmission issues, limiting the amount of imported energy.

“We are experiencing the confluence of two long-term trends,” Bushnell explained. “We are kind of being hit on the supply side and the demand side.”

When it comes to supply, Bushnell said the state’s energy decision-makers may be overestimating not only what other states can offer but also key hours when power is most needed.

“We didn’t quite update the planning approach to deal with what we call the net peak, and that’s the demand after the sun sets and we need to meet the demand that’s leftover after the renewables go away,” Bushnell said.

Although storage capabilities are improving, Bushnell told FOX40 the technology just isn’t there yet to keep the energy the state needs.

Hydropower can also act as a battery by shifting water to upper-elevation dams during off-peak times and allowing gravity to move water to lower dams to generate electricity when it’s needed the most, but the drought has hampered that option too. 

Looking ahead, with more hot days coming and other states not being able to give what they have at times, some experts believe expanding the western power grid east could help.

“Building more transmission could definitely be part of the solution,” Shen said. “Being able to connect to the Midwest for example, which is a wind-rich region, with the need for that energy out here in California, is definitely something that could be part of meeting our energy needs in the future.”

The ability to better transfer power is part of President Joe Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. 

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