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Tipsheet

California's Power Grid Is a Total Disaster

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

In California, the formerly grand state is yet again facing its "green" alternative energy chickens coming home to roost in the form of rolling blackout warnings from state officials due to... summer weather.

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A warning on Tuesday issued by California's Independent System Operator (ISO) stated that "extreme heat" hitting California and the West until next Tuesday "is likely to strain the grid with increased energy demands, especially over the holiday weekend." The strain is set to hit a peak load above 48,000 megawatts on Monday — which would be the highest level seen in California this year. 

"In what's likely to be the most extensive heat wave in the West so far this year, temperatures in Northern California are expected to be 10-20 degrees warmer than normal through Tuesday, Sept. 6," the bulletin continued. "In Southern California, temperatures are expected to be 10-18 degrees warmer than normal."

In response, the ISO says it "is taking measures to bring all available resources online" and is limiting or delaying scheduled maintenance on the grid "due to high loads and temperatures across the state" to "ensure all available generation and transmission lines are in service."

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If things get bad enough, the ISO says it will issue further emergency alerts to "prepare market participants and the public for potential energy shortages and the need to conserve" and expects so-called "Flex alerts" to be issued calling for voluntary energy conservation by Californians as a last resort before forcibly throwing certain areas into the dark to save the larger grid from crashing. 

Those Flex alerts, when issued, call for consumers to "reduce energy use from 5-9 p.m. when the system is most stressed because demand for electricity remains high and there is less solar energy available."

That energy reduction means Californians are "urged" to set their thermostats to "78 degrees or higher, avoid using large appliances and charging electric vehicles, and turn off unnecessary lights."

Yes, that's right. California is, due to summer heat, telling its citizens to avoid charging their electric vehicles to prevent entire sections of the power grid from going down. That would be the same state that just announced a "monumental" step toward eliminating gas-powered vehicles by approving a new rule to phase out and ultimately ban new cars that run on gasoline.

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As Leah reported here, the rule "issued by the California Air Resources Board, will require that all new cars sold in the state by 2035 be free of greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide" — meaning no new gasoline vehicles. "The rule also sets interim targets, requiring that 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold by 2026 produce zero emissions," a requirement that "climbs to 68 percent by 2030." 

The main choice remaining for Californians in the coming years will, therefore, be electric vehicles — despite the fact that California's grid cannot currently handle demand when temperatures spike. If all the new cars in California are electric, the strain on the Golden State's electrical infrastructure will only increase the threat of rolling blackouts and make Flex alerts restricting power usage more likely.

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