California braces for power shortages in hot, dry summer

SACRAMENTO, California. — California will likely experience an energy shortage equivalent to what is needed to power about 1.3 million homes as usage peaks during the hot and dry summer months, state officials said Friday.

Threats of drought, extreme heat and wildfires, as well as supply chain and regulatory issues hampering the solar industry, will create energy reliability challenges this summer and for years to come, officials said. They represented the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission, and the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power grid.

State models project that during the hottest months, when air conditioners are operating at full capacity, the state will have 1,700 megawatts less electricity than it needs during peak demand — typically in the early evening as the sun goes down.

According to the Energy Commission, one megawatt provides power for about 750 to 1,000 homes in California. In the most extreme circumstances, the deficit could be far larger: 5,000 megawatts, or enough to power 3.75 million homes.


“The only thing we’re expecting are new and surprising conditions, and we’re trying to be prepared for them,” said Alice Reynolds, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates large utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric.

The state – and residents – have several tools at their disposal to avoid blackouts. Electricity can be purchased from other states and residents can reduce their consumption during peak periods, but blackouts are still possible in extreme situations, officials said. Reynolds urged people to consider reducing their energy use by cooling their homes early in the day and then turning off their air conditioners when the sun goes down.

In August 2020, amid extreme heat, the California independent system operator ordered utilities to temporarily shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers.


Mark Rothleder, the system operator’s senior vice president, said the state is more likely to experience power outages again this year if the entire West experiences a heatwave at the same time. That would prevent California from buying excess electricity from other states. Wildfires could also affect the state’s ability to maintain power, he said.

California is in the process of transitioning its power grid from energy 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, fewer energy options are available to the state.

Ana Matosantos, cabinet secretary to Gov. Gavin Newsom, declined to share details of what other actions the government might take to ensure reliability, saying only that Newsom is considering a “number of different actions” Diablo Canyon is about planned closure in 2025.


Meanwhile, supply chain problems caused by the pandemic are slowing the availability of equipment needed to build more solar power systems with batteries that can store the energy for use when the sun isn’t shining.

State officials also pointed to a US Commerce Department investigation into imports of solar panels from Southeast Asia as something that could impede California’s move toward clean energy.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. California braces for power shortages in hot, dry summer

Justin Scacco

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