Californians Urged to Conserve Energy During Heat Wave

Californians Urged to Conserve Energy During Heat Wave

August 17, 2020 – Palo Alto, CA - California and the western United States are currently experiencing a record-breaking heatwave. This is causing a strain on the electric grid and high electricity demand continues to put pressure on the state’s energy infrastructure. The agency that manages the state’s electric grid, the California Independent System Operator (ISO), has issued a statewide call for voluntary electricity conservation, known as Flex Alert, in an attempt to avert rolling power outages.  

The Flex Alert is in effect from 3 p.m. - 10 p.m. through Wednesday or Thursday, August 19-20, and may be extended further based on weather conditions. If voluntary energy reductions are insufficient, consumers throughout the state should be prepared for likely rolling power outages during the late afternoons and early evenings, as there may not be enough energy statewide to meet high demands during the heatwave.   

The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) will be required to curtail electric load if ordered to do so by ISO. This condition is not unique to Palo Alto. It is impacting other electricity providers and utility customers across California. Please note that these outages are not a public safety power shutoff which may be called during specific high fire threat conditions, and they are not related to any issues with CPAU’s equipment or our ability to deliver energy locally.  

The city anticipates receiving notifications sometime this week in the afternoons or evenings that we must reduce electricity consumption in our utility’s service area in order to help the state balance the electric grid. This call to reduce our city’s electricity consumption may arrive with short notice, most likely during the peak energy demand time frame of late afternoon to early evening. When CPAU receives notice from the state to curtail electric consumption, we will be required to shut off power to some Palo Alto customers. Planning is underway to limit impacts by employing rolling power outages lasting up to two hours.  

What You Can Do to Help 

We are asking our residents and businesses to voluntarily conserve energy to help us lower demand, avoid additional power outages, and lessen the duration of an outage. Consumers are urged to reduce energy use during the most critical time of the day between 3 pm and 10 pm when temperatures remain high and solar production is falling due to the sun setting. 

Tips to conserve energy and stay cool: 

  • Set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, if health permits. 
  • Cool your home to below normal levels in the morning and reduce your air conditioning during the afternoon hours. 
  • Use a fan instead of air conditioning. 
  • Close blinds and drapes. 
  • Defer use of major appliances. 
  • Turn off unnecessary lights. 
  • Unplug unused electrical devices. 
  • Limit time the refrigerator door is open. 
  • Consumers can also take steps to prepare for the Flex Alert by doing the following before 3 pm: 
  • “Pre-cool” homes or lower air conditioning thermostats to 72 degrees.  
  • Charge electric vehicles. 
  • Charge mobile devices and laptops. 
  • Run dishwashers, washing machines and other major appliances. 
  • Set pool pumps to run in the early morning or late at night.

For more ways to conserve, visit  

Cooling Centers 

Palo Alto has activated its Cooling Center at Mitchell Park Community Center on Tuesday, August 18 from 1 pm to 6 pm. For more about Palo Alto’s Cooling Centers and other safety tips, go here. Cooling centers are also available in Santa Clara County for customers without air conditioning and those who are reliant on power for health or safety reasons. View Countywide Cooling Center locations here.  

Stay Informed and Prepared 

Connect with us or review our resources to learn more about emergency preparation and disaster response. We encourage residents and businesses to prepare themselves by following these steps at 

Please also check our webpage to ensure you are signed up to receive emergency notifications from the city during any potential emergency situations.

In the event of an emergency, dial 9-1-1. For non-emergency public safety issues, call (650) 329-2413. 

Stay connected with us on social media by following the City of Palo Alto and Palo Alto Utilities on Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor. Sign up for the City’s digital newsletters at and Utilities updates at


About the City of Palo Alto Utilities:  The City of Palo Alto Utilities is the only municipal utility in California operating a full suite of services, including electric and fiber optics, natural gas, water, and wastewater. Visit to learn more about our energy and water efficiency programs.

Media Contact: 

Catherine Elvert, Utilities Communications Manager, (650)833-9433

Last Updated: August 17, 2020