California

Newsom stares down an old, new crisis: rolling blackouts

After a weekend of rolling blackouts around the state amid a heat wave, California Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the energy shortage on Monday, signing an emergency proclamation which allows large energy users to utilize backup energy sources during peak hours. 

California fell short in the megawatts needed to provide uninterrupted service over the weekend, Newsom said, and the state anticipated the problem would get worse on Monday to the tune of a 4,400 megawatt shortage. 

“Let me just make this crystal clear: We failed to predict and plan these shortages, and that’s simply unacceptable,” Newsom said. 

Even with large energy users being able to tap into backup sources, Newsom anticipates the state will face shortages over the next few days, leading to more blackouts. 

The governor also sent a letter to the public utilities commission, the California Independent System Operator and the California Energy Commission seeking answers on the power shortages and the lack of blackout warnings. 

“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. 

State Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno) said there were some early warning signs of trouble for California’s grid and contested Newsom’s blame-shifting.

“The governor and his agencies are all pointing fingers about who is at fault for the power shutoffs, but all have played a role in this policy failure. Last year the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) warned there would be ‘potential resource shortages’ starting in 2020,” Borgeas said in a statement.

“The State must balance its green energy goals with the ability to provide reliable power, especially in the midst of a heat wave, a pandemic, and an economic shutdown. Children cannot be expected to distance learn from home without power, and the PUC must enforce grid reliability.”

The California ISO released a flex-alert Monday calling for California residents to lower their energy use from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Wednesday. 

Stephen Berberich, California ISO CEO, told reporters Monday that the blackouts could have been avoided. 

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

Berberich also said that utilities will very likely have to shut off power to millions of people this week and said 3.3 million people could be affected Monday. 

The rolling blackouts are the first in California since the energy crisis in 2000-2001 under the helm of Gov. Gray Davis. 

Coronavirus pandemic

Newsom also shared data regarding the coronavirus pandemic, showing that the spread and impact of the virus is on the decline. 

The state has cleared through nearly 300,000 cases that were in a backlog, hampering California’s efforts over the past few weeks. With the backlog cleared, the numbers paint a much clearer picture of where the state currently stands with the pandemic. 

WIth the state now averaging close to 134,000 tests per day, California is now averaging a 6.5 percent positivity rate over a two-week period. 

Hospitalizations have fallen 21% over in a two-week period, and ICU admissions have decreased 16% in the same period.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.