FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – California utilities call on customers to be vigilant during this extreme heat. As California faces a dangerous heatwave, utilities say energy conservation is key to preventing blackouts and high electric bills.

The California Independent Systems Operator is predicting high electricity demand the next few days and has issued a Flex Alert for Thursday, June 17 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Flex Alerts encourage as little energy use as possible in the early evening hours so there isn’t a strain on the power grid.

Electric and gas utilities also have resources available for qualifying customers if bills increase dramatically because of the extreme heat and need for air conditioning.

“If a customer is on a fixed income, if they’re low income, they should 100 percent see if they qualify for the CARE program, which is an income-based program, the California Alternative Rates for Energy,” said Denny Boyles, spokesperson for PG&E in Fresno.

Similar to CARE is the Family Electric Rate Assistance Program or FERA for households with three or more people. Both programs can be applied for if you meet eligibility.

“Eligibility for CARE and FERA is based on the customer’s current annual household income and the number of people in a household,” said Gabriela Ornelas, spokesperson for Southern California Edison in the Central Valley.

Ornelas says Southern California Edison sees a 30 percent greater enrollment in these programs during the peak months of July-October than non-peak months. These programs can be applied for directly through one’s electric and gas utility. Ornelas says there are options even if you don’t qualify.

“Even those who are not eligible for income-qualified programs, we encourage them to contact our staff,” Ornelas said. “We can help with payment arrangements that can help spread out their payments over a period of time.”

To avoid high bills, Ornelas says to set your thermostat at 78 degrees and use ceiling fans when possible. And use major appliances like stoves, ovens, and washers and dryers in the morning if possible.