San Francisco, CA

Stress on power grid prompts Newsom to declare state of emergency

Josue Torres

As the impacts of climate change threaten to strain the electricity supply, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation on Friday aimed at accelerating renewable energy generation and reducing stress on the state’s electric system.
Photo by Yuan Yang.Unsplash

Climate change-related catastrophic heatwaves, wildfires, drought, and a reduced winter snowpack prompted the governor to proclaim a state of emergency, warning that California may suffer severe energy shortages in the coming months.

To avoid power supply problems, Newsom’s proclamation orders state agencies to expedite clean-energy production projects. 

The directive also establishes a new temporary program that would compensate big industrial energy users for reducing consumption when power supply limitations result in a system emergency that risks rolling blackouts. 

The program will be in effect until October 31.

This summer has seen record heat waves in the Western United States, and Newsom has warned that wildfires or an extreme heatwave may disrupt energy-transmission infrastructure. 

Drought has worsened the issue by causing hydroelectric power facilities to decrease or stop operations due to low reservoir levels.

California saw two days of rolling blackouts in August of last year when high heat engulfed the western United States, severely limiting the state’s capacity to import electricity from its neighbors. 

Later, state officials admitted that they had not adequately planned for such limited supply and high demand, especially on the nights when solar panels went down. 

This year’s heat has also put a strain on the California power system, but no rolling blackouts have happened.

When big energy users switch to backup power due to grid pressure, Newsom and other state officials recognize that some of them will utilize fossil-fuel generators, resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions. 

The governor’s proclamation requires air-quality authorities to create a strategy for reducing the impacts of any such emissions, with a focus on disadvantaged areas.

The California Public Utilities Commission and other agencies are also urged by Newsom’s proclamation to speed up the development of clean-energy production and storage facilities.

Officials with the California Independent System Operator, a non-profit that oversees the majority of the state’s electric system, were cautiously hopeful that the state would be better equipped to handle high power demand during this year’s heatwaves. 

However, the situation has become more worrisome as a result of increasing drought conditions and the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, which endangered critical transmission lines, according to Elliot Mainzer, the system operator’s CEO.

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