Summer Flex Alerts: Managing Energy Consumption in High Demand Seasons
As temperatures soar and air conditioners hum throughout the summer, it’s essential to monitor your community’s energy consumption habits. This is especially true of community choice aggregators (CCAs), as they often operate on a smaller, localized scale, and are invested in deepening the ties with the communities that they serve. The summer season’s longer days and warmer afternoons are paired with higher demands on our power grid. Utilize flex alerts as a communication opportunity to rally your community to save energy and protect the grid when they need it the most.
Summer is the season when households and businesses crank up their air conditioning units, leading to a substantial surge in electricity usage. This burden is particularly prevalent during the “peak” hours of 4 to 9 p.m., when people return home from work and school, cool their homes, run loads of laundry and cook meals. Increased electricity demand can put a strain on the power grid, potentially increasing greenhouse gas emissions or crashing the grid entirely, leading to power outages that can be life-threatening to vulnerable communities on hot days.
Flex alerts are a great tool to prevent hazardous exertion of the electricity grid. They are issued by the California Independent Operator (CAISO)—a nonprofit that manages the high-voltage energy grid for 80% of the state. Summer flex alerts are usually sent out in response to anticipated high energy demand (usually connected to an extreme heat wave), notifying customers of upcoming strain on the grid and requesting voluntary energy conservation measures. Typically, flex alerts are issued a day before they go into effect, but they can also be employed during sudden grid emergencies to target regions in California where the grid is overloaded. CAISO distributes these messages via text and email.
CCAs can play an essential role in publicizing flex alerts within their communities. Oftentimes, these locally focused organizations have already made widespread contacts throughout the cities they serve; spreading the word about an upcoming flex alert is an essential component of protecting local communities. Producing timely, effective communication about these energy warnings is also a great way to build your organization’s reputation as a knowledgeable resource for locally relevant utility news. CCAs can harness their pre-existing social media followings, email contact lists and local relationships to notify their communities about flex alerts. While boosting a flex alert, we also recommend notifying your community of the consequences of not reducing energy consumption, such as rolling blackouts.
Since CCAs are more familiar with their own customers, they can also personalize the more general version of the flex alerts issued by the CAISO. For example, if your community has dedicated cooling centers, we recommend including their locations and hours of operation while promoting alerts. Additionally, cooling center locations should be included on dedicated summer heat advisory pages of your city website.
Beyond preventing grid failure, flex alerts are a great way to draw local attention to day-to-day energy consumption habits and encourage long-term energy-saving behaviors. In an era marked by climate change and increasing energy demands, Summer Flex Alerts provide a tangible way for individuals and communities to make a difference. By supporting these alerts, you become an active participant in managing energy consumption, ensuring grid reliability and moving toward a more sustainable future.
Community members can learn more and sign up to receive flex alerts at https://www.flexalert.org/