With an extreme heat wave continuing across California, officials are warning of the possibility of more rolling blackouts as state officials struggle to secure additional electricity amid the worse power crisis in nearly 20 years. On Monday, officials had warned of blackouts affecting as many as 3 million people, but officials ended up canceling the warning, saying improved weather conditions and conservation efforts reduced demand on the power grid. "We are grateful to families and businesses across the state that answered the call to reduce electricity use during a crucial time on the grid," Steve Berberich, the president of the California Independent System Operator, said in a statement. "This heat storm is not over, and we still expect exceedingly hot temperatures [Tuesday] and Wednesday. With continued help from California residents in conserving energy, much like [Monday], we can reduce the risk of power outages."
Heat wave brings fears of wildfires; Jeff Paul reports. The organization that manages California's electric grid was inadequately prepared for a scorching heat wave that led to rolling blackouts in a state already grappling with massive wildfires and a global pandemic, according to a New York Times report. Droves of power plants were either down or producing below peak strength prior to the Golden State's record-breaking temperatures in mid-August, the Times reported, citing data from the dashboard maintained by the California Independent System Operator. Sites generating 15% of the electricity on California's grid were completely offline. CAISO, as the organization is known, said in a letter to Californa Gov. Gavin Newsom that it's still trying to understand exactly why the waves of blackouts on Aug. 14 and 15 became necessary but conceded that "capacity shortfalls played a major role."
California suffered its first rolling blackouts in nearly 20 years because energy planners didn't take climate change into account and didn't line up the right power sources to keep the lights on after sundown, according to a damning self-evaluation released Tuesday by three state agencies. The rotating power outages didn't last long and affected only a small fraction of the state's 40 million people. Just under half a million homes and businesses lost power for as little as 15 minutes and as long as two and a half hours on Aug. 14, with another 321,000 utility customers going dark for anywhere from eight to 90 minutes the following evening. But officials should have been prepared for the climate-driven extreme heat that caused electricity demand to soar and briefly left the nation's largest state without sufficient power supplies, the state's Energy Commission, Independent System Operator and Public Utilities Commission acknowledged in a preliminary "root cause analysis" demanded by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The immediate cause of the power shortages was the heat storm, which saw California experience four of its five hottest August days in the last 35 years, the analysis found. Temperature records were shattered across the American West, limiting the Golden State's ability to make up for its energy deficit by importing electrons from other states.
Around 43 million Americans are under an excessive heat watch and have been told to stay indoors as record-high temperatures are expected to hit the West Coast for Labor Day weekend. Forecasters warned that a dangerous heat wave is headed for much of California, southern Nevada and western Arizona over the next three days, with temperatures soaring to up to 120 degrees. California is bracing for what could be one of its hottest days in history, at a time when the Golden State is already under the grip of dozens of mammoth wildfires which have so far destroyed more than 1.5 million acres. Fears are mounting that respite from the intense heat will be hard to come by as major utilities warn increased energy demand for much-needed air con units will push the power grid to the brink. California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Thursday in efforts to conserve the state's energy capacity and prevent a repeat of the power outages seen last month when an August heatwave caused rolling blackouts across thousands of homes.
With scorching temperatures set to sear California through Labor Day weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation aimed at shoring up the state's energy capacity and staving off the kind of power outages and rolling blackouts that left tens of thousands of residents in the dark during the last massive heat wave. Newsom's declaration, issued Thursday, comes as some major utilities warn that the one-two-punch of sweltering conditions and increased energy demand could stress the power grid to its limit, potentially resulting in outages. "For this weekend, conservation is key," said Jim Hanggi, a spokesman for Southern California Edison. The California Independent System Operator, which runs the power grid for most of the state, has already issued a statewide flex alert -- calling for voluntary electricity conservation from 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday through Monday. Virtually all of California will be under an excessive heat watch or warning beginning Friday or Saturday and continuing through Sunday or Monday.