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Rolling blackouts? California is preparing for energy shortages in hot, dry summers




California is likely to have a shortage of energy equivalent to what is needed to power around 1.3 million homes when usage is at its peak during the hot and dry summer months, government officials said Friday. Threats from drought, extreme heat and forest fires, plus supply chains and regulatory issues hindering the solar energy industry, will create challenges for energy reliability this summer and in the years to come, officials said. They represented the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission and the California Independent System Operator, which administer the state’s energy grid. Government models assume that the state will have 1[ads1],700 fewer megawatts of power than it needs in times of greatest demand – usually early evening when the sun goes down – in the hottest months when the air conditioner is in full use. | PREVIOUS COVERAGE Can California’s power grid handle another hot summer? One megawatt drives about 750 to 1,000 homes in California, according to the Energy Commission. Under the most extreme circumstances, the deficit could be far worse: 5,000 megawatts, or enough to drive 3.75 million homes. “The only thing we expect is to see new and surprising conditions, and we try to be prepared for them,” said Alice Reynolds, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates large utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric. Climate change is driving a mega-drought in California, which this year was the driest January to March recorded. Many state reservoirs are well below average levels, and last summer the state closed hydropower production at Oroville Dam for the first time because there was not enough water. It is up and running again, but the closure cost the state 600 megawatts of power, officials said. Major hydropower projects generated almost 14% of the state’s electricity in 2020, according to the independent system operator. Renewable energy sources, mainly solar energy, accounted for 34.5% and nuclear power accounted for 10%. In the midst of expected deficits this summer, the state – and its citizens – have several tools to avoid power outages. Electricity can be purchased from other states and residents can lower usage during high demand, but power shortages are still possible in extreme situations, officials said. Reynolds urged people to consider reducing energy consumption by doing things like cooling down their homes early in the day and then turning off the air conditioning when the sun goes down. In August 2020, in the midst of extreme heat, the California Independent System Operator ordered a temporary cut. power to hundreds of thousands of customers. Mark Rothleder, senior vice president of the system operator, said the state will be more likely to experience blackouts again this year if the entire West has a heatwave at the same time. It would hinder California’s ability to purchase excess power from other states. Forest fires could also hamper the state’s ability to maintain power, he said. California is in the process of shifting its network away from power sources that emit greenhouse gases to carbon-free sources such as solar and wind power. As old power plants prepare for retirement, including the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the state has fewer energy options available. By 2025, the state will lose 6,000 megawatts of power due to planned shutdowns of power plants. Ana Matosantos, Gov. Newsom’s secretary of state, declined to comment on what other actions the administration could take to ensure reliability, saying only that Newsom was looking for a “variety of actions.” The Democratic governor recently said he was open to keeping Diablo Canyon open beyond the planned closure in 2025. Meanwhile, supply chain problems caused by the pandemic are slowing down the availability of equipment needed to withstand more solar energy systems with batteries that can store energy for use in the sun. does not shine. Government officials also pointed to a study by the US Department of Commerce on imports of solar panels from Southeast Asia as something with the potential 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 references along the way, including 60% by 2030. Even now, the state sometimes exceeds this goal, especially during the day. The amount of electricity that comes from renewable sources varies based on the time of day and year, as well as what is available. Recently, the system operator said it reached a record of getting more than 99% of its energy from non-carbon sources around 1 p.m. 15:00, even if it only lasted a few minutes. Solar energy accounts for by far the largest share of renewable energy, although it peaks during the day and drops significantly at night when the sun goes down. The state increases battery storage so that solar energy can continue to be used when it is dark, but the state’s capacity is still significantly lacking. Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves about 16 million people in California, has added more battery storage since 2020 power outages and is working on programs to reduce the energy load during high demand, spokeswoman Lynsey Paolo said in a statement. The company saves water in reservoirs it depends on for hydropower and tells customers how they can reduce demand, she said. Her statement did not mention Diablo Canyon, which the tool operates.

California is likely to have a shortage of energy equivalent to what is needed to power around 1.3 million homes when usage is at its peak during the hot and dry summer months, government officials said Friday.

Threats from drought, extreme heat and forest fires, plus supply chains and regulatory issues hindering the solar energy industry, will create challenges for energy reliability this summer and in the years to come, officials said. They represented the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission and the California Independent System Operator, which administer the state’s energy grid.

Government models assume that the state will have 1,700 fewer megawatts of power than it needs in times of greatest demand – typically early in the evening when the sun goes down – in the hottest months when air conditioning is in full use.

| PREVIOUS COVERAGE Can California’s power grid handle another hot summer?

One megawatt drives about 750 to 1,000 homes in California, according to the Energy Commission. Under the most extreme circumstances, the deficit could be far worse: 5,000 megawatts, or enough to drive 3.75 million homes.

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

Climate change is driving a mega-drought in California, which this year was the driest January to March on record. Many state reservoirs are well below average levels, and last summer the state closed hydropower production at Oroville Dam for the first time because there was not enough water. It is up and running again, but the closure cost the state 600 megawatts of power, officials said.

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

In the midst of expected shortages this summer, the state – and its citizens – have several tools to avoid power outages. Electricity can be purchased from other states, and residents can reduce usage during high demand, but power shortages are still possible in extreme situations, officials said. Reynolds urged people to consider reducing energy consumption by doing things like cooling down their homes early in the day and then turning off the air conditioning when the sun goes down.

In August 2020, in the midst of extreme heat, the California Independent System Operator ordered the temporary cut of power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

Mark Rothleder, senior vice president of the system operator, said the state will be more likely to experience blackouts again this year if the entire West has a heatwave at the same time. It would hinder California’s ability to purchase excess power from other states. Forest fires could also hamper the state’s ability to maintain power, he said.

California is in the process of shifting its network away from power sources that emit greenhouse gases to carbon-free sources such as solar and wind power. As old power plants prepare for retirement, including the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the state has fewer energy options available. By 2025, the state will lose 6,000 megawatts of power due to planned power plant shutdowns.

Ana Matosantos, Cabinet Secretary to Governor Gavin Newsom, declined to comment on what other actions the administration could take to ensure reliability, saying only that Newsom looked at a “variety of actions.” The Democratic governor recently said he was open to keeping Diablo Canyon open beyond the planned 2025 closure.

Meanwhile, supply chain problems caused by the pandemic are slowing down the availability of equipment needed to stand up to multiple solar energy systems with batteries that can store energy for use when the sun is not shining.

Government officials also pointed to a study by the US Department of Commerce on imports of solar panels from Southeast Asia as something with the potential 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 road references including 60% by 2030. Even now, the state sometimes exceeds this goal, especially during the day. The amount of electricity that comes from renewable sources varies based on the time of day and year, as well as what is available.

Recently, the system operator said it reached a record of getting more than 99% of its energy from non-carbon sources around 1 p.m. 15:00, even if it only lasted a few minutes.

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

Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves about 16 million people in California, has added more battery storage since the power outages in 2020 and is working on programs to reduce the energy load during high demand, spokeswoman Lynsey Paolo said in a statement. The company saves water in reservoirs it depends on for hydropower and tells customers how they can reduce demand, she said. Her statement did not mention Diablo Canyon, which the tool operates.



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