Sunday, October 27, 2019

PG&E Shutoffs

If they are so smart,

Why cant the government and universities

plan for reliable electricity

in the information age?

Berkeley energy experts weigh in on PG&E power shutoffs

mass power shutdowns the new normal for California?

What does this mean for the state's businesses and the economy?

path forward for the state's aging grid?

Thousands of miles of power lines strung across fire-prone wildlands?

Energy Institute at Berkeley

Pacific Gas & Electric determined it could not guarantee the safety of its lines

shut down power to hundreds of thousands of people, including the entire UC Berkeley campus.

SoCal Edison also cut power Thursday.

tips for getting through a power shutoff and then spent the day getting ready, packing the freezer with ice to add thermal mass.

"This is why we live in a modern economy,
so we don't have to spend most of our lives doing these things,"

faculty director for the Energy Institute

in places with unreliable power such as sub-Saharan Africa,

businesses have no choice but to incorporate the cost of backup power into their budgets.

Commercial generators can run upwards of $10,000

"That becomes essentially like a tax on the economy,"

For California's energy economy,

the effects of climate change are throwing things off balance to the point where some things will have to change.

Concrete poles may be necessary in windy areas;

another possibility is that the state require batteries in new developments that are in high-risk fire areas so power shutoffs to them aren't so disruptive

Utilities have long sought to balance the cost of preventing wildfires with the need to sell cheap power,

California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state grid.

"It used to be that balance was viewed as pretty reasonable.

With climate change, I think it's not any more."

Is it possible to gauge the economic impact of this week's power shutoffs?

I've seen estimates that run all the way from $65M to $2.6B. That's a pretty wide range

the high side is less than 1/1000th of the state's annual GDP.

there shouldn't be any concern that this will set us into a recession.

these outages are very unusual because they're a really long duration

there are likely going to be losses that are hard to measure.

Electricity is used for many, many different purposes in modern economies,

it's really hard to put a precise number on the losses.

People were already angry with PG&E before this shutdown, and now they're even angrier.

Do you think the shutoffs were justified?

PG&E has pretty strong incentives right now to be extremely cautious.

PG&E has a huge financial liability if their equipment starts a fire.

On the other hand, the large financial and other costs of shutting off power are not borne by PG&E, but by customers.

They do take a reputation hit, but don't face the same sort of financial downside that would fall on them if their equipment started another fire.

We'll never really know whether the outages prevented a fire from starting.

As we begin to feel the effects of climate change,

what is the path forward for the state's aging grid?

other utilities have been better than PG&E at investing in modern technologies

that help prevent fires and

give them more visibility into their electricity systems

San Diego Gas & Electric has technologies that de-energize lines when they sense that they're falling.

Hopefully, PG&E will start investing in things like this.

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