NEWS Rolling blackouts called off as California grid stabilizes amid heat wave

Rolling black­outs called off as Cal­i­for­nia grid sta­bi­lizes amid heat wave

 & , Aug 17, 2020

For the original:


Wide­spread black­outs to reduce pres­sure on the elec­tric grid were averted Mon­day night after reg­u­la­tors warned ear­lier in the day that they would not have enough power to meet demand in the midst of a heat wave.

The Cal­i­for­nia Inde­pen­dent Sys­tem Oper­a­tor lifted its emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion shortly before 8 p.m. Mon­day, after the state’s power grid oper­a­tor had warned that it expected to imple­ment rotat­ing out­ages that could have left mil­lions of Cal­i­for­ni­ans in the dark for up to two hours.

Cal­i­for­nia ISO would have ordered util­i­ties to shed their power loads as demand for elec­tric­ity to cool homes soared. The oper­a­tor had said as many as 3.3 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses would be affected but later reduced that to around a half-​​million before can­celling the option.

Pleas for peo­ple to leave their air con­di­tion­ers at higher tem­per­a­tures and avoid using wash­ing machines and other major appli­ances seemed to have worked.

Thank you for con­serv­ing,” Cal­i­for­nia ISO said in a tweet.

The first rolling black­outs in nearly 20 years came Fri­day as unusu­ally hot weather over­whelmed the elec­tri­cal grid. The three biggest util­i­ties — Pacific Gas & Elec­tric, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Edi­son and San Diego Gas & Elec­tric — turned off power to more than 410,000 homes and busi­nesses for about an hour at a time until the emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion ended 3 1/​2 hours later.

A sec­ond but shorter out­age hit Sat­ur­day evening, affect­ing more than 200,000 cus­tomers. Cal­i­for­ni­ans packed beaches and river banks over the week­end to cool off from scorch­ing triple-​​digit tem­per­a­tures that raised the risk of more wild­fires and fears of the coro­n­avirus spread­ing.

An irate Gov. Gavin New­som signed an emer­gency procla­ma­tion Sun­day allow­ing some energy users and util­i­ties to tap backup energy sources. He acknowl­edged Mon­day that the state failed to pre­dict and plan for the energy shortages.

I am not pleased with what’s hap­pened,” he said dur­ing a news brief­ing. “You shouldn’t be pleased with the moment that we’re in here in the state of California.”

New­som also sent a let­ter demand­ing that the state Energy Com­mis­sion, state Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion and the Cal­i­for­nia Inde­pen­dent Sys­tem Oper­a­tor inves­ti­gate the blackouts.

The Demo­c­ra­tic gov­er­nor said res­i­dents bat­tling a heat wave and a pan­demic in which they’re encour­aged to stay home were left with­out the basic neces­sity of elec­tric­ity. In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, tem­per­a­tures reached a record high of 110 in Lan­caster and 111 in Palmdale.

These black­outs, which occurred with­out prior warn­ing or enough time for prepa­ra­tion, are unac­cept­able and unbe­fit­ting of the nation’s largest and most inno­v­a­tive state,” New­som wrote in the let­ter. “This can­not stand. Cal­i­for­nia res­i­dents and busi­nesses deserve bet­ter from their government.”

Dur­ing a grid oper­a­tor board meet­ing Mon­day, Cal­i­for­nia ISO CEO and Pres­i­dent Steve Berberich said. said the week­end black­outs could have been avoided had reg­u­la­tors lis­tened to its pre­vi­ous con­cerns about a power short­fall. In call later with reporters, he soft­ened his tone, say­ing he knows the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion is work­ing to find the right bal­ance of energy sources.

It’s sub­stan­tial, no ques­tion about it,” he said of the outage.

The Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion said it would work with the other agen­cies to fig­ure out what hap­pened. The demand for elec­tric­ity in the last few days has been con­sis­tent with expec­ta­tions, spokes­woman Ter­rie Pros­per said.

The ques­tion we’re tack­ling is why cer­tain resources were not avail­able,” she said.

The last time a Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor faced power out­ages, he was suc­cess­fully recalled. Gray Davis, a Demo­c­rat, was recalled in Octo­ber 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger, a Republican.

Daniel Kam­men, an energy pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, said the state needs to do more to store and sell clean energy sources, and he hopes this week’s black­outs will prompt offi­cials to act.

This is kind of a stress test on the sys­tem,” he said. “We have not built up enough of a smart enough sys­tem to take advan­tage of all the renew­ables we have in place.”

Cus­tomers are asked to reduce energy use through Wednes­day night, espe­cially dur­ing peak evening hours.

Bon­nie Wik­ler, 66, wor­ried about her hus­band, who is recov­er­ing from open heart surgery. She said it was very stress­ful to lose power twice over the week­end at their home in Coalinga, a city in cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia where tem­per­a­tures reached 109 Fahren­heit (43 Celsius).

They thought about dri­ving some­where but were too afraid of coro­n­avirus expo­sure, so they stayed home and cooled off with ice water, she said.

If there was a fire or an earth­quake, I would under­stand, but to cut power with­out let­ting you know, it just seems out­landish to me,” Wik­ler said.

Berberich acknowl­edged that his agency should have given more pub­lic notice, say­ing, “We own that and are sorry we didn’t do more.”

In Marin County, just north of San Fran­cisco, offi­cials opened a cool­ing cen­ter that only 21 peo­ple vis­ited over the week­end, spokes­woman Laine Hen­dricks said. It’s equipped with a backup gen­er­a­tor, and employ­ees are screen­ing for COVID-​​19 symp­toms and ensur­ing peo­ple are wear­ing masks, she said.

We’re still in a shelter-​​in-​​place envi­ron­ment,” Hen­dricks said. “Even though it’s hot out­side, COVID hasn’t gone away.”

Cal­i­for­nia also still faces the threat of power out­ages to pre­vent wild­fires. Thou­sands were with­out power for days last year when Pacific Gas & Elec­tric and other util­i­ties shut off lines amid high, dry winds in order to pre­vent wildfires.

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