SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California is launching new efforts to help prevent rolling blackouts this summer.
For the first time, California plans on creating a stockpile of emergency energy that can be switched on when power supplies run low.
"There's currently an estimated 1700-megawatt-capacity shortfall," said Elliot Mainzer, CEO of California's Independent System Operator.
Rolling blackouts hit the state two years ago for the first time in nearly 20 years – and they almost happened again last year – when grid managers declared a stage-two electrical emergency.
So what could put California on the brink of blackouts again this summer?
"Regional heat waves, large wildfires, and severe drought conditions," Mainzer said.
The biggest concern is extreme heat events that stress the power grid in the evening hours when solar production drops but air conditioner use remains high.
"We want to be prepared as a state," said Ted Craddock with the California Department of Water Resources.
That's why the budget includes spending more than five billion dollars to help boost the state's energy supplies.
The plan calls for creating a new strategic electricity reliability reserve — an extra 5,000 megawatts of emergency power that can only be tapped when the grid runs dangerously low.
"This is not the normal day. This is not the normal time of year. These are extreme conditions," said Alice Busching Reynolds, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.
The reserve will include natural gas-powered generators that can be quickly fired up.
"These are really units that are indented to serve as emergency resources," Craddock said.
Additional electricity will come from older power plants that were scheduled to be decommissioned, but would now be used only during peak energy needs.
"We're going to be calling on those units this summer," said Karen Douglas, an energy advisor to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. "They're going to be running when we have our most critical reliability challenges."
But even with these new measures, people may still have to reduce their energy use to help keep the lights on.
"We want people to be ready," Mainzer said.
Most of the additional new power will come from fossil fuels, which could impact air quality and the state's goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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