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Electricity cut off in California in record heat: the governor demands an investigation

California Governor Gavin Newsom has demanded an investigation into why state residents were left without electricity during the heat wave and pandemic without prior warning and time to prepare. The decision came after the state went out of power for the first time in nearly two decades over the weekend (August 15-16). Writes about it The Guardian.

Photo: Shutterstock

On Monday, Gavin Newsom called the unexpected power outages "unacceptable."

“We have not been able to predict and plan for this power shortage, and this is unacceptable,” Newsom said. “As your governor, I have taken responsibility for addressing this issue immediately to ensure that it never happens again.”

He signed an emergency declaration allowing some energy consumers and utilities to use backup sources during peak hours.

Still, according to the state's largest grid manager, the California Independent System Operator (ISO), millions of Californians could face repeated blackouts this week.

On Monday, Aug 17, the ISO said it would likely order utility companies to turn off their electricity at around 16:00 pm local time, as demand for electricity to cool homes surges during the hottest part of the day.

Steve Berberich, CEO and president of ISO, said the state is short of about 4 megawatts, meaning up to 400 million homes could be left without electricity. Affected homes can expect a power outage of approximately two hours. He did not say where the outages might occur, it depends on the utilities.

The power outage occurred during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as very hot weather that caused thunderstorms, fire tornadoes and a record temperature of 54,4 ° C (129,9F) in California's Death Valley.

On the subject: Why electricity bills go up during a pandemic: what can be done about it

Recent power outages have not been carried out as they have been in the past as a safety measure to prevent forest fires. They were caused by power supply problems. Weekend electricity demand rose as Californians push home temperatures down as record heat continues.

The lack of electricity can be especially devastating now, as Americans are being encouraged to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and shopping malls, libraries and other closed public meeting places remain closed. Heatwaves are fatal, especially for the poor, minorities, the elderly, and homeless people - and extreme heat kills more Americans than all other natural disasters combined.

“I was really surprised when this happened,” said David Marcus, a Bay Area energy consultant and former advisor to the California Energy Commission.

The International Organization for Standardization, a nonprofit organization that regulates electricity supplies to much of California, said it ordered power outages for more than 410 homes and businesses for three and a half hours on Friday, Aug. 000, after an "unexpected loss" of 14 megawatts at the power plant and 470 megawatts of wind power. On Saturday evening, August 1000, ISO announced a second, shorter outage, cutting power to more than 15 customers.

Authorities have issued a recommendation until Wednesday, August 19, urging Californians to voluntarily save energy by turning off unnecessary appliances.

ISO traditionally issues a Level 3 alert that causes the state's largest utilities to cut off electricity to certain customers when the state's energy reserves are 3% or below. According to Markus, on Saturday, August 15, reserves were 8,9% when the ISO issued a third stage warning. "I am very curious to know what explanation they have for why they turned off the lights to people when they had 8,9% of reserves - when they told citizens they would not do this until they reached 3% of reserves."

On the subject: Fires, evacuations, power outages: California was hit by a thunderstorm with hundreds of lightning

“I think they had adequate access to electricity, but they did not manage these assets properly,” said Bill Powers, an energy consultant based in San Diego.

Powers believes the energy authority has focused on cost-effectiveness, which may have deprived the company of incentives to use older, more expensive power plants as back-up sources. Notably, non-ISO utilities, including the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, had no power outages.

“For me, this means that utilities are simply becoming more aware of the need to serve their customers, rather than just using them as a basis for profit,” said Power.

The persistent power outages this weekend were the first since the 2001 energy crisis, in which energy traders from Enron Corp and others took advantage of loopholes in the state's newly regulated electricity system and cut off electricity to drive up prices.

In a warning issued on Sunday, the ISO said the heatwave "is causing supply congestion and consumers need to be prepared for potential disruptions at the end of the day."

As ForumDaily wrote earlier:

Read also on ForumDaily:

Fires, evacuations, power outages: California was hit by a thunderstorm with hundreds of lightning

The highest temperature on Earth: a new record was recorded in Death Valley

Dangerous to health: 8 things not recommended to do in the heat

12 of the most unusual buildings around the world built today

Monument bandaging and dragon walking: 8 weird student traditions from around the world

Miscellaneous In the U.S. electricity California

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