Blackouts averted but power shortage angers Newsom

8:10 p.m., Monday — Widespread blackouts to reduce pressure on the electric grid — which could have included the Palo Alto area — were averted Monday night after regulators warned earlier in the day that they would not have enough power to meet demand in the midst of a heat wave.

The California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) lifted its emergency declaration shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, after the state’s power grid operator had warned that it expected to implement rotating outages that could have left millions of Californians in the dark for up to two hours.

California ISO would have ordered utilities to shed their power loads as demand for electricity to cool homes soared. The operator had said as many as 3.3 million homes and businesses would be affected but later reduced that to around a half-million before cancelling the option.

Pleas for people to leave their air conditioners at higher temperatures and avoid using washing machines and other major appliances seemed to have worked.

5:30 p.m., Monday — The California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) reports that rolling blackouts will end at 6 p.m. today. Demand has been less than expected because of slightly lower temperatures than forecast and power conservation by customers. It doesn’t appear that any of the rolling blackouts occurred on the Peninsula.

5 p.m., Monday — Up to 3.3 million homes and businesses in California were expected to lose power today (Aug. 17) as part of rolling blackouts to ease pressure on the state’s electric grid as a dayslong heat wave creates an energy shortage.

The California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) said it would likely order utility companies to turn off power starting around 4 p.m. as demand for electricity to cool homes soars during the hottest part of the day beyond the power available in the grid.

As of 5 p.m., the locations for the rolling blackouts had not been announced.

Temperatures in Palo Alto reached 100 on Friday and Saturday, and 93 yesterday.

Individual utilities, such as PG&E and the city of Palo Alto Utilities, don’t decide when rolling blackouts occur. Instead, rolling blackouts are decided by Cal ISO.

The rolling blackouts typically last two hours. Cal ISO hasn’t had to institute rolling blackouts since 2001 due to energy market manipulation by speculators.

“I know that that’s going to be highly disruptive to people. I truly, truly wish there were other options that we had at hand,” Cal ISO CEO and President Steve Berberich said.

He said the state is short about 4,400 megawatts, which equates to about 3.3 million homes, and those affected can expect to lose power for about two hours.

1:23 p.m., Monday — Californians should be prepared for rolling blackouts today through Wednesday because a statewide heat wave is straining the state’s electrical power grid.

The California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO), which runs the state’s power grid capabilities, issued a warning at noon today saying, it is “forecasting a possible system reserve deficiency” between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. today.

Cal ISO is urging people and businesses to reduce energy consumption to prevent rolling blackouts.

During peak daylight hours, California produces a surplus of solar energy to the point of overloading the grid. But during the evening, after the sun goes down, solar energy production plunges while demand remains high. Power plants that burn natural gas and other fuels cannot compete with the government-subsidized solar plans, and so they’re shutting down.

In addition, state water regulators are forcing the shutdown of “peaker” plants along the coast that can quickly ramp up generation when the sun goes down.

The California Public Utilities Commission warned last year that the state could face an energy shortage as early as 2021 on hot summer evenings. It appears that shortage has come a year earlier than thought.

Outages caught Newsom by surprise

This afternoon, an irate Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an emergency proclamation allowing some energy users and utilities to tap backup energy sources to deal with the power shortage.

Newsom acknowledged the state failed to predict and plan for the energy shortages.

“I am not pleased with what’s happened,” he said during an afternoon press briefing. “You shouldn’t be pleased with the moment that we’re in.”

Newsom also sent a letter demanding that the state energy commission, public utilities commission and Cal ISO investigate broad energy blackouts over two days last week that he said occurred without prior warning or enough time to prepare.

One rolling blackout resulted in a two-hour outage on Friday afternoon, affecting 6,500 homes and businesses in Palo Alto and Los Altos.

Newsom said residents battling a heat wave and a pandemic in which they’re encouraged to stay home as much as possible were left without the basic necessity of electricity.

“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. “This cannot stand. California residents and businesses deserve better from their government.”

But Steve Berberich, president and CEO of Cal ISO, said they have warned the state utilities commission of a resource gap.

“We have indicated in filing after filing after filing that the resource adequacy program was broken and needed to be fixed,” he said. “The situation we are in could have been avoided.” — From staff and wire reports


  1. We pay about twice per kilowatt for electricity than people do in other Western states like Washington, Oregon and Nevada. During a heat wave, our power goes out. Theirs doesn’t. We’re shutting down our gas and nuclear plants, and replacing it with unreliable solar and wind power. Why are we putting up with incompetent leaders who think this is OK?

  2. Newsom was warned last year by the CPUC about this, but he ignored the warning. He should be mad at himself. We should find somebody else to be governor.

  3. We purposefully gave ourselves a 3rd world power grid, then he complains when it goes dark? I would think Gavin was worldly enough to know what we were pursuing.

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