California finds itself on edge more than ever with a lingering fear: the threat of rolling blackouts for years to come.
Despite adding new power plants, building huge battery storage systems and restarting some shuttered fossil fuel generators over the past couple of years, California relies heavily on energy from other states — the cavalry rushing over a distant hill.
Sometimes the support does not show up when expected or at all. That was the case this month, when millions of residents got cellphone alerts urging them to cut their energy use as the state teetered close to blackouts in blazing heat.
As climate change makes extreme weather events more frequent, the peril has only increased.
“Weather volatility wreaks havoc on energy systems,” said Evan Caron, a 20-year veteran of the energy industry as a trader and investor who handles venture investments for Riverstone Holdings, a private equity firm in New York. “They’ve created complex systems to help try to figure out how to balance demand, but the system is an imperfect system.”
Where local utilities once produced, transmitted and delivered electricity to their customers, a cast of players now orchestrates the service in most areas of the country. There are power plant owners, energy traders who buy and sell excess power not committed in contracts, utilities that deliver electricity to customers, electric grid managers who coordinate it all.