Heat Wave Strain on State’s Power Grid and PG&E’s Warning

September 2022


With the high temperatures and fires, KQED seeks the expertise of Severin Borenstein, Energy Institute Faculty Director. In their recent interview, they examine how power lines affect public safety power shutoffs, as well as energy shortages caused by rolling blackouts.

“There are two different issues here, one is the overall shortage of electricity and that is better planning. I suspect this will become a rarity. It is worth noting that the system is planned for a once in ten year shortage. And the last time we had a shortage was twenty years ago. So, we could spend more money and have an even lower chance of a shortage” Borenstein clarifies. “Conservation makes a huge difference on these super hot days. If you look at the difference between a mild summer day in California, and one of these real scorchers, we use about 60% more electricity on the scorchers…All of that extra demand is cooling. Particularly for the people who have air condition, if you can reset it just by a few degrees that greatly cuts the amount of electricity it needs. And that helps reduce the demand. It looks like we got through yesterday in large part because people did respond to those calls for conservation” he adds. “On the public safety power shutoffs, if the weather doesn’t get a lot worst we are going to have shorter and smaller shut offs. And the reason is the utilities are getting better at figuring out exactly which lines they have to shut off. We are going to have public safety power shutoffs this year and I suspect for a few years. But I suspect people won’t find them as spread as we did last fall when they lasted for days and affected millions of people.”

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