CA receives $67.5 million to modernize power grid, help avoid rolling blackouts

Zach Fuentes Image
Tuesday, July 11, 2023
$67.5 million given to California to improve power grid
California receives $67.5 million to improve and modernize the power grid to help avoid rolling blackouts amid high demand.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Major concerns linked to demands on California's power grid have become more common over the last few summers.

Now, $67.5 million in federal funding is aiming to modernize the grid and help the state avoid power outages.

VIDEO: California is less likely to experience rolling blackouts in 2023, officials say

California energy leaders say the state is less likely to experience rolling blackouts in 2023.

Flex Alerts have become increasingly frequent over the years, issued by the operators of California's electric grid, the alerts call for people throughout the state to conserve power during peak hours, usually on extremely hot days.

If demand on the grid is expected to go over its capacity, the state triggers rolling blackouts like those in the Summer of 2020.

"Droughts, heat waves and massive atmospheric rivers, all of which are made worse by the climate crisis, have meant constant threats to our electrical grid," said Senator Alex Padilla in a Monday press call.

With climate change expected to stay an issue for the foreseeable future, plus more demand expected on the grid with the state's upcoming goals of all-electric vehicles, new resources have been focused on improving the California electric grid.

"I'm thrilled to announce that the Department of Energy has awarded $200 million to nine states and three tribal nations for grid investments, including $67.5 million to California," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in the Monday press call.

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Granholm saying the funds can be used for critical upgrades.

"Upgrades for this program can include things like undergrounding or fireproofing equipment, or connecting microgrids which can offer backup power for critical services, "Granholm said. "Maybe reconnecting power lines to support more clean energy, connecting disadvantaged communities to renewable power."

U.C. Berkeley Professor Severin Borenstein is on the board of governors for the California Independent System Operator which runs the grid.

He says that while the attention and concern focused on the issues the grid faces are welcome, it's just not enough money.

"Right now utilities in California are planning to spend somewhere around $10 billion a year in order to meet this challenge. That's not forever, but for the next few years, at least," Borenstein said. "We're talking about huge investments, so $67 million helps, but it's a pretty small drop in a larger need."

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While attention continues to be placed on the grid's future, there's still a major focus on its present.

Though it's been a mild summer so far, Borenstein points out that it's far from over.

"This coming week, we'll probably have a slightly higher strain but still shouldn't really be pushing the system," he said. "But of course, the big problems come in late August and September."

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