Electricity Markets

Text Messages Have Played Key Role In California’s Response To Spike In Power Demand

Alerts sent through text messages to residents of California have played a key role in helping to manage increased power supply demand in the wake of soaring temperatures in the state, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services reported.

With extreme weather stretching California’s energy grid and threatening public health and safety, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services recently issued an emergency alert asking residents to conserve power.

As a result of this action, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) saw an immediate and significant drop in energy use, providing some relief to the state’s grid, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said on Sept. 6.

The following alert was sent via text message through the Wireless Emergency Alerts system to cell phone users in targeted counties: “Conserve energy now to protect public health and safety. Extreme heat is straining the state energy grid. Power interruptions may occur unless you take action. Turn off or reduce nonessential power if health allows, now until 9 p.m.” The message was also sent in Spanish.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services noted that counties were being targeted because they are in areas of significantly above average temperatures, high population density and high concentrations of air conditioner use.

“This is a great example of the power of texting to reach the vast majority of customers within seconds to immediately change behavior,” said Mark Nielsen, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of California-based TextPower.

“By using texts, where 95% of texts are read within 3 minutes of receipt, utilities have shown time and again how effective these real-time load curtailment alerts have been,” he said. “While there is a place for social media, emails and phone calls, only emergency text alerts have the reach to immediately get such massive results that can avoid blackouts.”

Utilities use TextPower’s SmartAlerts™ to send and receive text notifications with their customers and field personnel. TextPower serves over 175 utilities across the country, ranging in size from under 5,000 customers to over 400,000.

Utilities utilize the company’s system for two-way outage notifications, dynamic load management, weather alerts, disconnect notices, two-way communications with field personnel, leak detection warnings and a host of other uses.

CAISO on Sept. 8 issued an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) 2, giving it the option to active its emergency response program and it helps the grid secure more supplies.

The state and much of the West is enduring an historically long and record-breaking heat wave, straining the grid from high electricity use, the grid operator said.

A Flex Alert was also in effect again for Sept. 8 to help alleviate grid stress and avoid rotating power outages. A Flex Alert is a call for consumers to voluntarily conserve electricity when there is a predicted shortage of energy supply, especially if the grid operator needs to dip into reserves to cover demand.