FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A statewide Flex Alert is in effect from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., urging residents to conserve energy and avoid using major appliances.

Flex Alerts are issued to stabilize the power grid as our high temperatures push up the demand for energy. However, if you noticed your electric bill is a lot higher than normal, you may be surprised to find that it’s not because of energy usage. Officials say it’s actually tied to the drought.

“The afternoon is a critical period where we expect demand to increase while energy supplies decrease,” said Gabriela Ornelas, spokesperson for Southern California Edison.

Taking these small steps at home can lead to big savings:

  • Setting the thermostat to 78 degrees
  • Turning off unnecessary lights
  • Using large appliances like washers and dryers during off-peak hours
  • Close blinds and drapes to keep rooms cool
  • “Pre-cool” homes overnight so they don’t need as much energy to cool during the day
  • Use fans instead of AC when possible

Energy suppliers say because of a lack of renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric power — a result of years of drought — companies are having to turn to natural gas.

“We have to make up that shortfall by purchasing gas from natural gas plants, the price of natural gas has gone up 75% from this time last year, and in California, the cost of the commodity is passed right on to the customer, there’s no markup on it,” says PG&E spokesperson Denny Boyles.

You’ll see this on the commodity portion of your bill. That accounts for 40% of your total electric bill resulting in higher than average bills.

Energy suppliers say there are some incentives and programs available if you do conserve energy during those peak hours.