California Takes Steps to Avoid Repeat of Summer Blackouts


California is scrambling to avoid a repeat of last summer’s blackouts with state regulators and the grid operator advancing plans to help shore up electricity supplies for the hottest days.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved a series of actions on Thursday that includes requiring the state’s big investor-owned utilities to increase by 2.5% the amount of backup energy procured for this summer and next.

The move follows a decision by the California Independent System Operator on Wednesday to make changes to market rules including strengthening financial incentives to import power. The grid operator also approved rules to allow for more accurate market signals to reflect tight supply conditions and require batteries to be charged during periods of expected high demand.

The state agencies are taking the steps ahead of this summer after grid operators were forced to impose rolling blackouts for two consecutive days during an extreme heat wave last August. The state found itself short of resources during the evening when solar production waned.

The outages, which left more than 800,000 Californians in the dark for hours, were the result of a climate-change induced heat wave, poor resource planning and power market flaws, according to a state root-cause analysis report on the crisis released earlier this year.

Environmental groups had raised concerns about earlier versions of the utility commission’s proposal because it allowed contracts for power from rebuilt or re-powered natural gas plants. That provision was dropped from the final order approved Thursday.

The commission also directed the utilities to take other measures including expanding programs that pay customers to dial back energy use during periods of high electricity demand while adjusting the times and rates that would be charged to customers during those periods. In addition, the commission ordered utilities to offer commercial and industrial customers lower rates if they allow the utilities to cut their power use when there is a threat of blackouts.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.