ALHAMBRA ( — State energy officials Friday warned the statewide drought and continued threat of wildfires could pose challenges to power supplies in coming weeks.

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports officials with California Independent System Operator (CAL ISO) reminded customers to conserve energy whenever possible, especially on hot days.

In its May outlook report, CAL ISO stated that despite California’s severe drought and its impact on energy from hydroelectric dams, electricity supplies statewide should remain adequate “assuming no unforeseen major situations”.

Steve Berberich, CAL ISO President and CEO, said the agency prepares in advance for the surge in energy demand from increased air condition use, which doubles the amount of electricity needed during the summer.

The greater threat this summer, according to Berberich, could come from wildfires that might threaten high voltage power lines: although they’re strung high above the ground, smoke can act as a conduit and cause power lines to spark and trip off-line.

“Fires in particular are gonna be a problem this year,” he said. “They burn underneath transmission lines and interrupt the ability to import power from outside the area.”

Cal Fire and other local agencies last week warned 2014 could be one of the worst fire seasons to date in California.

While the ISO coordinates with fire agencies to protect the grid as fires advance upon much-needed transmission wires, Berberich said the agency could use Flex Alerts, which are urgent but voluntary calls for residents and businesses to cut back on electricity use for a short period of time.


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