Two months after Gov. Gavin Newsom called for an investigation into California’s first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades — during which time residents were twice warned that blackouts could return — a group of key state agencies released their preliminary findings.
The findings raise serious questions about the ability of California’s electrical grid to meet ambitious environmental goals, including 100% clean energy by 2045 and Newsom’s recent order banning the sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035. The agencies pinpointed three main reasons why nearly 1 million customers lost power over the course of two days in August:
- Inadequate preparation for a “climate change-induced extreme heat storm.”
- Insufficient energy in the early evening hours due to the state’s increased reliance on clean energy.
- Complex market mechanisms, including one that allowed power plant operators to sell energy to other states even as a shortfall loomed.
To prevent future blackouts, the three state agencies that oversee energy — the California Independent System Operator, California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission — said they would revise their plans to account for extreme weather events, ensure energy generation and storage projects are completed on time, accelerate new projects, and “enhance” market practices.
- Gary Ackerman, a longtime utilities and energy consultant: The report “point(s) to a lot of work that must be done by all three agencies … and I wonder how much any of those recommendations will be or can be put in place by next summer.”
The state has struggled to meet its own deadlines tor transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy. After the rolling blackouts, it voted to keep four controversial gas-powered plants running, although they were supposed to be phased out by the end of 2020. And over the past three years, it shut off some gas generation in anticipation of battery storage it has yet to build, according to the Los Angeles Times.
- Ed Randolph of the Public Utilities Commission: “Our planning processes may have been a year or two off on when we needed to have the resources available.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 834,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and 16,361 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.
Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. How Californians are helping turn Texas purple
By now you’ve heard of the “California Exodus.” Here’s a closer look at its effects on one state — Texas — where more than 700,000 Californians have fled since 2008, helping turn the once bright-red state purple. The former Republican stronghold could actually tilt Democratic this year, and progressive Californians have already shifted congressional and state legislative races across the state, CalMatters’ Matt Levin reports. Though many Californians moved to Texas precisely because they wanted to escape the Golden State’s Democrat-dominated politics, some Texans have resisted the influx — including Gov. Greg Abbott, who successfully ran for reelection in 2018 with the slogan “Don’t California My Texas.”
- Deborah Peoples, chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party: “I think we’re seeing this level of activism among Californians. When they get here, they look at the political landscape, they say, ‘This doesn’t look like where I came from, and what do I do to change it?'”
2. Will California allow safe drug-use sites?
Controversial legislation that would permit safe drug-use sites in San Francisco and Oakland will likely be reintroduced next year, state Sen. Scott Wiener said Thursday. This would mark the San Francisco Democrat’s fourth attempt to legalize sites where users are provided clean needles to take drugs and can access addiction treatment and medication. The news comes on the heels of a report that found San Francisco experienced a staggering 70% increase in overdose deaths from 2018 to 2019, most of which were related to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
- Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s public health director: “We are in an emergency in San Francisco. We need every tool at our disposal.”
- Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychiatry professor: “The evidence in favor of them is a lot weaker than advocates say. When you’re in an injection room … you’re less likely to have a bad incident because there is someone there who can save your life. At the same time, we know that most users don’t use the injection room.”
3. Some happy news, for once
I know a lot of people are desperate for good news right now — and it’s Friday, so we all deserve a break! Here’s a lovely story from the Palm Springs Desert Sun about the emergence of “micro weddings” amid the pandemic, as couples limit guests in order to comply with public health orders and closed venues. The new trend has been a boon for California companies like Desert Pop Up that specialize in elopements and small weddings. And for some couples, it’s been an unexpected gift.
- Jane Chung, who married Chris Gorman in August in Joshua Tree National Park, with just their dog in attendance: “Somehow it made the day more special, because we could just focus on us and not become hosts. I’m really glad it worked out the way it did.”
My Facebook feed has been flooded with marriage announcements lately — sometimes as many as three per day. I’m not sure if it’s in spite of or because of the pandemic. Let me know if you’ve been seeing the same phenomenon!
CalMatters is hosting “Props to You” events — virtual Q&As for you to ask all of your burning questions about the 12 propositions on California’s November ballot. Register here. Each event runs from 6-7pm.
- Oct. 13: Tech Battles. Register | Submit Your Questions
- Oct. 14: Wait, Didn’t We Vote On These Already? Register | Submit Your Questions
Check out videos from our past Props to You events:
Help small businesses ASAP: Newsom and lawmakers need to immediately develop a major small-business relief program, write Josh Reeves of Gusto, Pat Fong Kushida of the CalAsian Chamber of Commerce, Julian Cañete of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and Edwin Lombard of the California Black Chamber of Commerce.
Prop. 21 will worsen housing crisis: Building affordable housing is already a challenge in California, but Prop. 21 would make it near impossible, argues Al Wong, a Bay Area small-property owner.
Prop. 21 incentivizes new housing: It allows local governments to limit rent increases on buildings older than 15 years, protecting millions of renters while stimulating new construction, argues Cynthia Davis of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Other things worth your time
On anniversary of Tubbs Fire, PG&E settlement shapes Sonoma County debate on future. // San Francisco Chronicle
California group: Fight wildfires with new ‘air armada’ paid for by scrapping bullet train project. // Washington Times
Nine dead at Santa Cruz County nursing home, doubling county’s virus death toll. // San Francisco Chronicle
How a days-old company pressured California into $450 million deal on COVID-19 gear. // Sacramento Bee
Bay Area mayor threatens to sue California over homeless housing project. // Mercury News
Podcast: The pros and cons of California’s new rent control initiative. // CalMatters/Los Angeles Times
California school districts spurn Trump food box letter. // Politico
See you Monday.
Tips, insight or feedback? Email email@example.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven
Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.