Rolling power outage? California braces for power shortages in hot, dry summer

State officials said Friday that California will likely face an energy shortage equivalent to what it takes to power about 1.3 million homes when use is at its peak during the hot, dry summer months. Officials said threats from drought, extreme heat and wildfires, as well as supply chain and regulatory issues holding back the solar industry will create challenges to energy reliability this summer and in the years to come. They represented the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission, and the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power grid. State models assume that the state will get 1,700 megawatts less power than it needs during times of highest demand — usually early evening with sunset — in the hottest months when the air conditioners are in full use. | Previous coverage | Can California’s power grid handle another hot summer? Under the most extreme conditions, the shortage could be much worse: 5,000 megawatts, or enough to power 3.75 million homes. “The only thing we expect is to see new and amazing conditions, and we try to be prepared for those conditions,” said Alice Reynolds, chair of the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates major utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric. Climate change has triggered a massive drought in California, which this year saw the driest month on record from January to March. Many of the state’s reservoirs were well below average levels, and last summer the state for the first time halted hydroelectric generation at Oroville Dam because there wasn’t enough water. It was up and running again, but the shutdown cost the state 600 megawatts of electricity, officials said. Large hydropower projects generated nearly 14% of the state’s electricity in 2020, according to the independent system operator. Renewable energy sources, mainly solar, account for 34.5% and nuclear energy for 10%. Amid the expected shortages this summer, the state — and residents — have multiple tools to avoid blackouts. Energy can be purchased from other states and residents can reduce their use during peak demand, but energy shortages are still possible during extreme situations, officials said. Reynolds urged people to consider reducing their energy use by doing things like cooling their homes early in the day and then turning off their air conditioners at sunset, and in August 2020, amid sweltering heat, the California autonomous system operator ordered utilities to temporarily cut off. to hundreds of thousands of customers. Mark Rothelider, senior vice president of the system operator, said the state will be more vulnerable to another blackout this year if the entire West experiences a heat wave at the same time. That would hamper California’s ability to purchase excess power from other states. He said wildfires could also hamper the state’s ability to maintain power. California is shifting its grid away from energy sources that emit greenhouse gases to zero-carbon sources such as solar and wind energy. With older power plants ready for retirement, including the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, the state has fewer power options available. By 2025, the state will lose 6,000 megawatts of power due to the planned shutdown of the power plant. Anna Matosantos, Cabinet Secretary to Governor Gavin Newsom, declined to share details about other measures the administration might take to ensure reliability, only saying that Newsom was looking at “a range of different measures.” The Democratic governor recently said he’s open to keeping Diablo Canyon open beyond a planned shutdown in 2025. Systems with batteries that can store energy for use when the sun isn’t shining. State officials also cited a U.S. Department of Commerce investigation into solar panel imports from Southeast Asia as something likely to hinder California’s move toward clean energy. California has set a goal of getting 100% of its electricity from non-carbon sources by 2045, with Certain benchmarks are all the way down to 60% by 2030. The state is already exceeding this target at times, especially during the day. The amount of energy that comes from renewable sources varies based on the time of day and year as well as what is available. The system operator recently said it hit a record of getting more than 99% of its energy from non-carbon sources around 3 p.m., although that only lasted a few minutes. Solar energy constitutes by far the largest share of renewable energy, although it peaks during the day and decreases significantly at night at sunset. The state is ramping up battery storage so that solar energy can continue to be used at nightfall, but the state’s capacity is still sorely short. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which serves about 16 million people in California, has added more battery storage capacity since 2020 outages and is working on programs to reduce power load during peak demand, spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said in a statement. She added that the company preserves water in reservoirs that rely on it to generate hydroelectric power and tells customers how they can reduce demand. Its statement did not mention Diablo Canyon, in which the facilities operate.

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State officials said Friday that California will likely face an energy shortage equivalent to what it takes to power about 1.3 million homes when use is at its peak during the hot, dry summer months.

Officials said threats from drought, extreme heat and wildfires, as well as supply chain and regulatory issues holding back the solar industry will create challenges to energy reliability this summer and in the years to come. They represented the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission, and the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power grid.

State models assume that the state will have 1,700 megawatts less power than it needs during times of highest demand — usually in the early evening with sunset — in the hottest months when the air conditioners are in full use.

| Previous coverage | Can California’s power grid handle another hot summer?

According to the Energy Commission, one megawatt provides between 750 and 1,000 homes in California. Under the most extreme conditions, the shortage could be much worse: 5,000 megawatts, or enough to power 3.75 million homes.

“The only thing we expect is to see new and amazing conditions, and we try to be prepared for those conditions,” said Alice Reynolds, chair of the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates major utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric.

Climate change is driving a massive drought in California, which this year had the driest month from January through March on record. Many of the state’s reservoirs are well below average levels, and last summer the state for the first time halted hydroelectric generation at Oroville Dam due to a lack of sufficient water. It was up and running again, officials said, but the shutdown cost the state 600 megawatts of power.

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Large hydropower projects generated nearly 14% of the state’s electricity in 2020, according to the independent system operator. Renewable energy sources, especially solar energy, accounted for 34.5% and nuclear energy for 10%.

Amid the expected shortages this summer, the state — and residents — have multiple tools to avoid blackouts. Officials said the power could be purchased from other states and residents could reduce its use during peak demand, but that there was still power shortages during tough situations. Reynolds urged people to consider reducing their energy use by doing things like cooling their homes early in the day and then turning off their air conditioners at sunset.

In August 2020, amid sweltering heat, a California autonomous system operator ordered utilities to temporarily cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

Mark Rothelider, senior vice president of the system operator, said the state will be more vulnerable to another blackout this year if the entire West experiences a heat wave at the same time. That would hamper California’s ability to purchase excess power from other states. He said wildfires could also hamper the state’s ability to maintain power.

California is shifting its grid away from energy sources that emit greenhouse gases to zero-carbon sources such as solar and wind energy. With older power plants ready for retirement, including the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, the state has fewer power options available. By 2025, the state will lose 6,000 megawatts of power due to the planned shutdown of the power plant.

Ana Matosantos, Cabinet Secretary in Gavin Newsom’s government, declined to share details of other measures the administration might take to ensure reliability, saying only that Newsom was looking at a “batch of different measures”. The Democratic governor recently said he is open to keeping Diablo Canyon open after its planned closure in 2025.

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Meanwhile, supply chain issues from the pandemic are slowing the availability of the equipment needed to spot more solar systems with batteries that can store energy for use when the sun isn’t shining.

State officials also cited a US Department of Commerce investigation into solar panel imports from Southeast Asia as something likely to hinder California’s move toward clean energy.

California has set a goal of getting 100% of its electricity from non-carbon sources by 2045, with certain benchmarks along the way including 60% by 2030. The state has already exceeded that goal at times, especially during the day. The amount of energy that comes from renewable sources varies based on the time of day and year as well as what is available.

The system operator recently said it hit a record of getting more than 99% of its energy from non-carbon sources around 3 p.m., although that only lasted a few minutes.

Solar energy constitutes by far the largest share of renewable energy, although it peaks during the day and drops dramatically at night when the sun goes down. The state is ramping up battery storage so that solar energy can continue to be used when it’s dark, but the state’s capacity is still sorely lacking.

Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves about 16 million people in California, has added more storage batteries since the 2020 blackout and is working on programs to reduce power load during peak demand, spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said in a statement. She added that the company preserves water in reservoirs that rely on it to generate hydroelectric power and tells customers how they can reduce demand. Its statement did not mention Diablo Canyon, in which the facilities operate.

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