What’s the Difference Between a Flex Alert and an #OhmHour?

Did you know you can get paid to help the state of California manage the energy grid?

If you’ve lived through a scorching-hot California summer and paid any attention to the news, you may have heard of statewide energy saving events called “Flex Alerts”.

But what exactly is a Flex Alert? And if you’re an OhmConnect customer, you might be wondering ‘how is a Flex Alert different than an #OhmHour?’ Today’s blog breaks down all the nitty gritty details about these energy events, how they differ from #OhmHours and how you can get paid for participating in energy saving events every week.

Ok, first, the very basics:

What is a Flex Alert?

A Flex Alert from the grid operator is a call for Californians to conserve electricity for the day. Flex Alerts typically occur during heat waves when expected power use outstrips available electricity supply or during other challenging grid conditions, such as when power plants or power lines are unexpectedly unavailable making electricity deliveries difficult.

Flex Alerts are issued by the California Independent System Operator (ISO), a nonprofit, public benefit corporation that operates the grid in California and in parts of eight western states.  The ISO does not own transmission lines or power plants, but does instruct power plants when to generate electricity, how much to generate and where the electricity will be delivered. The ISO is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C. Read more about the California ISO here.

This summer is expected to be particularly stressful on the grid, so stay tuned for the possibility of multiple Flex Alerts.

What is an #OhmHour, and how is it different than a Flex Alert?

In case you’ve never heard of #OhmHours, here’s the lowdown: #OhmHours are energy saving events, usually one hour in length, for which OhmConnect has committed to the grid that our users will save energy.

We send our community notifications letting them know when to conserve energy, and if they use less energy than forecasted they get paid. It’s a completely free service and it takes just a few minutes to sign up.

While both Flex Alerts and #OhmHours serve a role in helping keep the grid stable when either supply is tight or demand is higher than expected, you can get paid when participating in #OhmHours.

Additionally, the frequencies of the events are different in that Flex Alerts are called only a few times per year (when stress on the grid is extremely high), whereas #OhmHours are called as often as a few times per week in order to help with regular support of the grid.

What can trigger Flex Alerts and #OhmHours?

You may see a Flex Alert or an #OhmHour called because of:

  • High peak demand
  • Unplanned power plant outages
  • Fires that cause transmission line overloads, losses, or limitations
  • Humid, hot weather and heat storms.

How are Flex Alerts and #OhmHours communicated?

Flex Alerts: Flex Alerts are posted on the ISO website, sent in direct emails and texts to consumers who sign up for notifications, and posted to Twitter and other social media. The ISO typically notifies the media when it issues a Flex Alert as well, so you might hear about it on the news.

You can receive Flex Alerts on your phone by downloading the mobile app ISO Today. In addition to getting notifications about Flex Alerts, you’ll also see what the grid conditions are on a minute by minute basis (which is cool for energy geeks like us!)

OhmHours: #OhmHours are dispatched to our users via email and SMS. Typically, alerts go out 24 hours in advance of the event, with follow-up messages sent out at the beginning and end of the #OhmHour to let users know when to unplug and when they can plug back in.

Whether you participate in Flex Alerts or #OhmHours (or both!), you’re doing a solid for the state of California by helping reduce stress on the electricity grid.

The more we can smooth out the peaks and valleys of electricity demand throughout the week, the more easily we will be able to transition away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy future. High five to you!

VIDEO: Want to learn more? Learn how the California ISO works to keep electricity flowing.

 
John Anderson

John is an Energy Economist fascinated by the potential for consumer technologies to bridge the participation gap between supply- and demand-side resources in competitive wholesale electricity markets.

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