Power lines stretch across the desert in Imperial Valley.
Power lines stretch across the desert in Imperial Valley. Photo by Chris Stone

California utility regulators took several steps to help keep the lights on during summer in 2022 and 2023 after extreme heatwaves this year baked the U.S. West Coast and forced the state’s grid operator to impose rotating outages last year.

The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday approved steps to boost supplies of power generation and encourage consumers to reduce demand, especially when extreme weather stresses the grid.

The actions were part of the CPUC’s ongoing efforts to respond to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July 2021 Emergency Proclamation urging all state energy agencies to ensure there is adequate electricity to meet demand.

A CPUC analysis found that a range of 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts of new supply- and demand-side resources will help address grid reliability in the most extreme circumstances in 2022 and 2023.

One megawatt can power about 200 homes on a hot summer day.

Some of the CPUC’s decisions will allow more consumers to sign up for programs that pay them to reduce power use and sell power from electric cars when the grid is stressed.

The CPUC also approved new rate pilot programs to test whether consumers would shift use of agricultural water pumps and car chargers to off-peak evening hours when power demand and prices are lower.

On the supply side, the CPUC ordered utility units of PG&E, Edison International and Sempra to acquire a total of 2,000-3,000 megawatts of additional supply and demand-side resources for the summers of 2022 and 2023.

Some of those supply-side resources could come from natural gas-fired power plants.

After years of restricting the growth of fossil fuel infrastructure, California has increasingly looked to gas for power generation this year after drought and wildfires left it with few other options to keep the lights on.