Amidst a sizzling heat wave that has taxed the state's power grid, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed an emergency proclamation designed to free up energy capacity and reduce the need for temporary energy service disruptions, according to his office.
The move will allow some energy users and utilities to use backup sources to relieve pressure on the grid during peak times.
Newsom on Sunday convened an all-hands meeting with California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and senior administration officials as the intense heat wave is expected to continue this week.
After that meeting, he sent a letter to CAISO, the CPUC and CEC demanding an investigation into the weekend outages and the energy agencies' failure to predict and mitigate them.
"I write today to express my deep concern about the broadscale de-energizations experienced by too many Californians on August 14 and 15th. These blackouts, which occurred without prior warning or enough time for preparation, are unacceptable and unbefitting of the nation’s largest and most innovative state," Newsom wrote. "Residents, communities and other governmental organizations did not receive sufficient warning that these de-energizations could occur. Collectively, energy regulators failed to anticipate this event and to take necessary actions to ensure reliable power to Californians. This cannot stand. California residents and businesses deserve better from their government."
Californians packed beaches and river banks over the weekend to cool off from scorching triple-digit temperatures that raised the risk of more wildfires and fears of coronavirus spread.
The unusually hot weather overwhelmed the state's electrical grid, prompting the California Independent System Operator, which runs the grid, to warn of another electricity supply shortage Sunday, though that one was averted.
California ISO ordered the first rolling outages in nearly 20 years on Friday when it directed utilities around the state to shed their power loads. The state's three biggest utilities -- Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric -- turned off power to more than 410,000 homes and businesses for about an hour at a time until the emergency declaration ended 3 1/2 hours later.
The ISO instituted a second, but shorter, rolling outage Saturday evening that cut power to more than 200,000 customers.
On Sunday, CAISO issued a statewide Flex Alert calling for voluntary electricity conservation, starting immediately and extending through Wednesday. The Flex Alerts are in effect from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
CAISO highlighted three simple actions individuals and businesses can take to reduce energy consumption:
- Set your thermostat to 78° or higher
- Refrain from major appliance use
- Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances
California also still faces the threat of power outages to prevent wildfires. Thousands were without power for days last year when PG&E and other utilities shut off lines amid high, dry winds in order to prevent wildfires.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.