SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Officials are warning that California could experience an energy crisis in the coming months.
Agencies that manage California's energy grid are sounding the alarm and warning that climate change continues to wreak havoc on the state's energy system. They say it threatens the grid's reliability and puts millions of residents at risk of rolling blackouts during intense heatwaves this summer.
James Mearns, a lecturer at Sacramento State University, has worked in the energy industry for 45 years.
"The drought effects were fairly well characterized, and we saw a significant shortfall in our generation capabilities as a result of those effects," he said. "With that, we're expecting the hydrogenation component to be way down."
Mearns said greenhouse gas emissions are also contributing to the growing problem and many traditional power plants are being retired quicker than they can be replaced by renewable energy.
"As you retire those more stable resources, you create the potential for dynamic behavior on the grid that won't support a sustained power output needed for those homes," he said. "We've been a little bit behind the curve on the transmission buildout to our renewable resource base."
In 2020, extreme heat led to power outages across the state. In 2021, drought also caused a powerplant in Oroville to shut down, and the Bootleg Fire in Oregon took out interstate transmission lines that caused 4,000 megawatts of energy to be cut off.
Mearns said Californians should always be prepared with a backup plan in place and added that there are steps people can take to reduce the risk of a power outage, such as lowering energy use during peak demand times.
"I would take advantage of the delta breezes in the middle of the night," he said. "Be prepared to take your kids, take your dogs and put them in a pool rather than simply going to the thermostat and trying to cool the inside of a very large house."
Mearn said the hope is that the state can run as long as it can without having to take a planned outage and just deal with the situation on a day-to-day basis.