Will California's improvements to power grid prevent rolling outages? Experts are hopeful

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California's first major heat wave of the season is raising concerns about the state's power supply - how has it been upgraded and will rolling blackouts become the new normal?

"I don't think rolling blackouts are the new normal," said Andrew Campbell, the executive director of UC Berkeley's Energy Institute. "If we get another West-wide heat wave, including the Southwest, Northwest at the same time - it's possible we could get rolling blackouts."

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Campbell says compared to last summer, the state is better prepared after California ISO significantly increased battery storage capacity for solar and wind energy.

"We are adding more and more storage capacity," said Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom says last year the state had 200 megawatts of storage. Currently, the state is sitting on 800 megawatts of storage, and by September CALISO expects to have 2,000 megawatts of storage.

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"It's a great step forward, but it's not going to be enough," said Campbell.

To put it in perspective, 2,000 megawatts of storage may sound like a large increase but doesn't come close to the state's demand generally peaking at 43,000 megawatts.

"I would personally feel more comfortable if we weren't talking about 2,000 megawatts of additional storage but talking double or even triple that," said Dan Kammen, an energy professor at UC Berkeley.

Kammen added CALISO and the Public Utilities Commission should be setting higher storage targets - especially as the state is preparing for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant to close in Southern California.

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"That will create another hole and need in our resource mix," Campbell said.

The good news is California has distributed more solar energy across the state.10 years ago the state was mainly powered by natural gas, now 41% of the state is powered with renewable energy. The bad news? The drought is only getting worse ahead of what's expected to be a disastrous fire season.

"California does have a lot of hydroelectric power in the water that we depend on," Campbell said. "Those numbers aren't looking as good this year."

The governor also signed a proclamation Thursday to help increase energy capacity during the heatwave. The proclamation suspends certain permitting requirements allowing the use of backup power generation.

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