News & media

Californians saved the grid again. They should be paid more for it

By Jeff St. John | September 15, 2022 | Canary Media

Smart thermostats, solar-charged batteries, EVs and other household devices can shore up the stressed grid. Why isn’t the state going all in on incentives?

Canary Media’s Down to the Wire column tackles the more complicated challenges of decarbonizing our energy systems.

Last week, for the second time in three years, California’s power grid was strained to the limit by record-high demand in the midst of a searing heat wave. But just like they did during the state’s grid emergencies of 2020, California consumers came to the rescue.

At around 5:45 p.m. on September 6, as state grid operator CAISO was preparing to initiate rolling blackouts to stave off grid collapse, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services issued a statewide text message alert asking people to ​“conserve energy now to protect public health and safety.” Over the next half an hour or so, demand dropped more than 2,000 megawatts below its record-setting peak of just over 52,000 megawatts.

This ​“demand-response event” — the utility industry term for asking customers to reduce power use to help the grid — ​“made an enormous difference in our efforts to keep the power flowing, and I cannot thank the public enough,” CAISO CEO Elliot Mainzer said the day after in a video update.

This and other similar experiences during summer heat waves in Texas this year and in New York City last year demonstrate that consumers are capable of reducing their household loads to help shore up beleaguered power systems. For millions of residents, this means setting their thermostats to reduce air conditioning or heating loads or turning off appliances and lights. For big power customers, it means shifting when they run refrigeration systems, water pumps or industrial processes.

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January 16, 2019 California’s energy grid is in crisis. Can the state keep the lights on? | Sac Bee - (pdf)

January 10, 2019 California set a goal of 100% clean energy, and now other states may follow its lead | LA Times - (pdf)

January 9, 2019 It was a bad year for carbon emissions, even in California | grist - (pdf)

November 14, 2018 Jerry Brown signed $1 billion in wildfire prevention—and none of it applies to the fires this year | CALmatters - (pdf)

September 6, 2018 California passes 100% clean energy bill, but punts on several plans for getting there | Palm Springs Desert Sun - (pdf)

August 28, 2018 OPINIONATED: Go Back to Aliso Canyon Deal Drawing Board | California Current - (pdf)

August 2, 2018 How California can regionalize its energy system without handing Trump the grid | Sacramento Bee - (pdf)

July 20, 2018 California’s Energy Diet Is Working | Bloomberg - (pdf)

July 2, 2018 Link California's clean energy to the rest of the west? Sounds great, but it's risky | LA Times - (pdf)

June 23, 2018 Opinion: A Prophet of Doom Was Right About the Climate | New York Times - (pdf)

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