How California Kept the Lights On

To stave off rolling blackouts during a record heat wave, California relied on dramatic conservation by households and a growing renewable energy sector.

Read Time: 2 minutes

September 21, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Renewable energy commitments aren’t to blame for the strain on California’s power grid, writes Jonathan Thompson in a piece for High Country News. Rather, the warming climate—caused by burning fossil fuels—is the real culprit, and shifting to renewables is one of the only ways to fight it.

On September 6, California utilities urged households to conserve energy to avoid rolling blackouts, even as temperatures across the state hit record highs. “Still, for most of that afternoon, all went smoothly on the California grid because solar and wind output was so high, offsetting about 30% of the total demand.”

In fact, Thompson writes, thanks in large part to a dramatic reduction in demand by California residents that day, “There were no statewide rolling outages, the grid stood up to extreme weather, and fossil fuel advocates’ attempt to politically weaponize the predicted blackouts fell flat.”

Thompson lists some key points to remember, “especially when you hear rhetoric about this near-miss being the result of green energy policies.” For example, California’s growing battery storage capacity and the more widespread adoption of electric vehicles, which can put power back into the grid, will enhance the stability of the state’s power supply. Ultimately, Thompson notes, the success of the state’s efforts to keep the lights on on September 6 hinged on the willingness of individual Californians to conserve during a crucial time.

Thursday, September 15, 2022 in High Country News

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