This is a trying time for the Bay Area. After struggling for more than five months through a pandemic, economic recession and social unrest, we are now confronted with an unprecedented onslaught of wildfires and record heat.
While some rhetoric blames the rolling power outages on the State’s transition to clean energy, the real culprit is a changing global climate. The only remedy remains the very same emission-free electricity that we and others have been working hard to add to the power grid.
As long as we keep releasing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, conditions like those we are experiencing now will only get worse. According to the Santa Clara County Office of Sustainability, the County is projected to have 15 additional extreme heat days on average annually by 2050 and as many as 45 by 2100. All the while, the bitter reality remains that the burden of extreme heat falls disproportionately on low-income residents and communities of color.
Bay Area Community Choice Energy agencies, also known as Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs), are taking comprehensive action to achieve our climate goals and improve local resilience. While our agencies were formed to serve our local communities, we are also working on solutions to help transition to a cleaner, more reliable power grid statewide.
Just as Californians have come together to address the coronavirus and social inequities, we need to come together to rethink how we respond to the extreme weather that is challenging an electricity delivery system that was built for the last century. Today, we need a multi-pronged approach to transition to a carbon-free grid. We need long-duration storage to allow for 24/7 renewable power. We need to change how we use electricity through smarter appliances and buildings and continue to empower consumers to use energy wisely.
Last week’s events showed that asking for voluntary conservation helps. It is truly impressive that so many residents curtailed their electricity usage during a heatwave. However, this was still a challenge for many that was compounded by unhealthy air quality that precluded opening windows to cool off overnight.
But conservation is just one tool.
Adding more storage onto the grid would help ensure greater reliability when using intermittent clean resources such as solar and wind. Our broader network of five Bay Area agencies have already procured nearly 500 megawatts of battery capacity that will come online over the next several years, with that figure likely to rise in the coming months.