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California officials warn of likely summer power shortages, blackouts

California officials warn of likely summer power shortages, blackouts
California officials warn of likely summer power shortages, blackouts 02:01

SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) -- California likely will have an energy shortfall equivalent to what it takes to power about 1.3 million homes when use is at its peak during the hot and dry summer months, state officials said Friday.

Extreme heat and wildfires, plus supply chain and regulatory issues hampering the solar industry will create challenges for energy reliability this summer and in the coming years, the officials said. They represented the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission and the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state's energy grid.

Add in a severe drought that could knock some hydro-electric offline and the strain on the system could be unprecedented.

Mark Rothleder, senior vice president of California ISO said the greatest risk comes when extreme heat collides with other kinds of emergencies.

"If you overlay that with also potential risk of fires that happen at the same time then you get into those more extraordinary extreme events that there is if all those things were to occur. There is real potential for potential outages and we have to be prepared for that," Rothleder said.

It has been two years since Californians were hit with rolling blackouts but, in the face of climate change and extreme heat events, residents could be in store for more.

"If we get into an extreme event ... we're worried, we're very humble about what might happen," said Alice Reynolds, California PUC president. "We may  have to call on Californians to take steps to just manage their loads during those hot periods."

The projected shortage could be up to 17 hundred megawatts which is equivalent to a major power plant.

Leaders say to prepare they're procuring more energy, increasing battery storage, and have installed new generators.

"Can we expect blackouts? No. But again, we don't know what to expect with climate change that's hitting us so were looking at this from a very pragmatic where we're really analyzing what the worst case could be and we're trying to make sure we do everything we can to be prepared for that," Reynolds said.

Experts expect to see the highest demand in September but say it is difficult to predict the number of outages Californians might experience.

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

Ana Matosantos, cabinet secretary for Gov. Gavin Newsom, declined to share details about what other actions the administration might take to ensure reliability, only saying Newsom was looking a "range of different actions." The Democratic governor recently said he was open to keeping Diablo Canyon open beyond its planned 2025 closing.

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

The state officials also pointed to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce into imports of solar panels from Southeast Asia as something with the potential to hinder California's move toward clean energy.

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