Newsom Says More Rolling Blackouts Are 'Very Likely'


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Gov. Gavin Newsom today warned Californians to be prepared for more rolling blackouts over the next 72 hours -- which he called “very likely'' -- as the state struggles to meet demand for electricity during a historic, record-breaking heat wave.

Despite using “all the tools in the tool kit'' to meet demand, the governor said, “We are likely to fall short'' as oppressive temperatures stress the state's energy system that serves five million households and businesses.

Newsom noted that temperatures in Death Valley reached 130 degrees Sunday, a peak not hit since at least 1931, according to the National Weather Service. And, he added that “rather extraordinary weather conditions'' also have put firefighters under enormous pressure as they battle wildfires across the state.

California is currently about 4,400 megawatts short of what it needs to supply energy to everyone who demands it, Newsom said.

“These next few days we are anticipating a challenge,'' the governor said, as he outlined efforts to buy more power out of state, work with the biggest users of energy -- including large container ships --- to limit use and better manage the state's supply.

Customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power also should be conserving energy, but should not be affected by the blackouts. LADWP runs its own plants and has sufficient supply to help support the state grid.

“We own our own power plants and transmission lines and had enough supply to meet demand and required reserves,'' the utility said in a statement. “We have called on our customers to continue conserving to help the state grid and reduce strain on the system. LADWP is not a part of the CAISO, but is assisting the state grid by providing energy to them to help reduce the number of customers affected by rolling blackouts elsewhere in the state.''

Newsom said the state should have been better prepared to avoid unscheduled blackouts.

“You can't control the weather but you can prepare for weather events,'' Newsom said. “We failed to prepare ... I'm ultimately accountable.''

Big power users are being allowed to shift to backup sources and stored energy that is typically restricted as state officials work to urgently deploy more resources systemwide, according to the governor.

Newsom pointed to the state's shift to renewable resources as part of the reason for the supply shortage. Shutting down polluting gas power plants has created gaps in the state's energy supply, he said.

While the state remains committed to a greener future, Newsom said, “We cannot sacrifice reliability" and promised that officials would be “much more aggressive ... in making sure that is the case.''

A statewide Flex Alert calling for residents to voluntarily conserve electricity remains in effect through Wednesday. Officials are also urging businesses statewide to restrict their usage. In some cases, the state is asking business owners to support outreach to their customers about conserving energy. Newsom named Telsa, a major manufacturer of electric vehicles, as one of the businesses working closely with the state.

The California Independent System Operator issued the Flex Alert on Sunday, saying there is insufficient energy to meet high consumer demand during the record-breaking heat wave. To minimize the need for controlled outages, residents were asked to use air conditioning early in the day and set thermostats at 78 in the afternoon and evening hours, while avoiding the use of major appliances between the hours of 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The alert followed blackouts Friday and Saturday that Newsom said came without warning. He called the weekend service disruptions “unacceptable'' and announced Monday that he had signed an emergency proclamation to free up energy capacity.

The proclamation allows some users and utilities to access backup energy sources to relieve pressure on the grid during peak times.

The state initiated some rolling blackouts Friday for the first time since 2001 and again on Saturday and Sunday.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said Friday's rolling blackouts did not affect residents of the city. “We own our own power plants and transmission lines and had enough supply to meet demand + req'd reserve,'' the department tweeted. “We encourage our customers to conserve to help state grid and reduce strain on system.''

On Saturday, high temperatures increased electricity demand while one power plant was down and wind power fell short, prompting a Stage 3 Electrical Emergency that lasted 20 minutes. It was called at 6:28 p.m., making rolling outages imminent or in progress, according to the California Independent System Operator.

No major outages were reported Monday by Southern California Edison, but peak power demand would likely not trigger outages until later in the day.

Over the weekend, state officials worked to bring more resources online, including increased power from LADWP, the California State Water Project and investor-owned utilities, according to the governor's office.

On Sunday, Newsom met with members of the California Independent System Operator, California Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission, Governor's Office of Emergency Services and senior administration officials.

In a letter written after the meeting, the governor said the blackouts were called Friday and Saturday without notice and demanded an investigation.

“Residents, communities and other governmental organizations did not receive sufficient warning that these de-energizations could occur. Collectively, energy regulators failed to anticipate this event and to take necessary actions to ensure reliable power to Californians,'' Newsom wrote.

“This cannot stand. California residents and businesses deserve better from their government.''

Power providers say a lack of supply from sources outside the state contributed to the shortage, as other Western states struggled to meet their own demand during the heat wave.

During his midday Monday news conference, the governor promised the investigation would be swift and comprehensive.

Residents struggling to stay cool in the past have been able to access theaters, swimming pools, public libraries and community centers, but these gathering places have been largely closed due to COVID-19. A list of cooling centers open across the county is available at lacounty.gov/heat.

In order to save as much energy as possible, consumers are urged to shift their use to morning and nighttime hours and avoid using appliances and air conditioning in the late afternoon and evening hours. Late in the day, temperatures remain high but solar production falls as the sun sets.

Tips for conserving energy include:

-- set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees;

-- defer use of major appliances;

-- turn off unnecessary lights;

-- unplug unused electrical devices;

-- close blinds and drapes;

-- rely on fans when possible; and

-- limit time the refrigerator door is open.

Consumers can also pre-cool their homes during earlier hours, when they can also charge electric vehicles, medical equipment, mobile devices and laptops and run major appliances. Pool pumps can be set to run in the early morning or late at night.

More conservation tips can be found at flexalert.org.

Photo: Getty Images


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