The California Independent System Operator (ISO) has declared a statewide Stage 2 Emergency for the rest of today and is urgently appealing to consumers to conserve energy immediately to avert or limit power outages today. Extreme weather conditions are challenging a compromised electrical grid, leading to likely power outages.
According to ISO, if system conditions do not improve, the ISO will declare a Stage 3 Emergency, including rotating power outages. The ISO is working closely with utilities and neighboring power systems to manage the strain on the grid and to limit any potential power disruptions.
The ISO also called a Flex Alert, a voluntary call to consumers to conserve electricity, from 3pm to 10pm today through Wednesday, August 19. During this time, consumers are urged to set air conditioner thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, turn off unnecessary lights, and defer use of major appliances.
With an extreme heat wave continuing across California, officials said more rolling blackouts are “imminent” as state officials struggle to secure additional electricity amid the worst power crisis in nearly 20 years.
In addition to record heat and fire weather conditions, California Governor Gavin Newsom blamed the state’s desire to use more green energy for part of the crisis. Yesterday, Governor Newsom called the power crisis “unacceptable” and pledged a full investigation into the cause of the shortage. “We’ve always maintained that, a golden oldie, you can’t control the weather, but you can prepare for the weather events,” he said. “And let me just make this crystal clear: We failed to predict and plan (for) these shortages, and that’s simply unacceptable.”
Newsom said the power crisis is a consequence of the state’s transition from carbon-emitting gas plants to cleaner sources of energy , adding that the recent hot weather this week has exposed “gaps in terms of that reliability.”
“We cannot sacrifice reliability as we move forward in this transition,” he said. “And we’re going to be much more aggressive in focusing our efforts and our intention in making sure that is the case.”
Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno shares Newsom’s frustration with renewable energy dependence. “You can’t run a 21st century economy that’s the fifth largest on the planet with wind and solar,” he said yesterday. “I have been warning over and over again that the policies coming out of the democrat-controlled legislature and Governors’ office are creating the conditions for blackouts and brownouts and here we are seeing the evidence,” Patterson says. Patterson is the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Utilities and Energy.
When the sun sets and the winds go calm, those renewable sources are no longer able to provide the grid with electricity. While the sun may set, hot temperatures linger along with the demand from consumers to keep things cool. But without the grid being supplied with energy, a shortage like the one occurring this week happens. With insufficient electrical generation from traditional energy sources such as natural gas, there’s not enough power to get around the state to all customers.
Beyond electricity shortages, there’s also a continued fear that fire weather conditions could spark new fires from falling or failing electrical wires or equipment. Last spring, fire officials concluded that equipment operated by PG&E caused the most destructive wildfire in California’s history: the Camp Fire of 2018. That fire killed 85 people, left several firefighters injured, and destroyed more than 150,000 acres across portions of northern California. Investigators determined that PG&E-controlled electrical transmission lines near the community of Pulga, located nearly 100 miles north of Sacramento, sparked the fire. Dry vegetation, strong winds and low humidity created a perfect fire weather scenario, creating a fast-moving conflagration that burned through the communities of Concow, Paradise and Magalia. Due to that fire, utilities have adopted a controversial policy of killing portions of the grid to prevent future tragedies from occurring.
Just last October, California utility PG&E threatened to cut-off most power in the grid due to fire weather risks. More dry, windy conditions during the day could force utilities to shut down portions of the grid this week, adding additional stress to an already stressed-out and compromised grid.