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Power briefly shut down for 1,700 Palo Alto Utilities customers in effort to protect state grid

Original post made on Sep 6, 2022

About 1,700 Palo Alto Utilities customers were briefly without power Tuesday evening in response to a state energy emergency alert, which was implemented amid a prolonged heat wave.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 6, 2022, 5:02 PM

Comments (36)

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2022 at 7:29 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

For this last rolling outage, our power was out for about an hour. It couldn't have happened at a worse time -- during the heat of the day. I kept thinking to myself that it is a good thing that CalTrain isn't electrified yet.


Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2022 at 7:41 pm

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

If we lived in other parts of the US, there would be adequate power, and we would not be forced to endure this insanity of "insufficient supplies." California is like living in a third world nation. Bring back reliable power!!! Mandated Green is not the solution, and it may never be, to CA power needs, especially as more and more and more housing is built. This is a health and safety issue as well as a comfort issue. And no, we do not have AC in our home, but I wish we did.


Posted by Ugh
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2022 at 7:44 pm

Ugh is a registered user.

California can't even handle 1.5 days of a heat wave without rolling black outs; how are we supposed to handle 100% electrification?!


Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2022 at 7:55 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Well, the good news is that our state lost plenty of good residents and businesses to taxpayer-friendly states. What's surprising is that our state's infrastructure still cannot supply enough power for the rest of us.


Posted by swuzy
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 6, 2022 at 8:16 pm

swuzy is a registered user.

U.S. States with the Most Power Outages March 9, 2021
xxxWeb Link
The state with the most frequent outages may surprise you.
Whether caused by a natural disaster or an electrical mishap, power outages are inconvenient and sometimes even dangerous for those affected by them. But exactly where are power outages most common in the United States?
MRO Electric, an independent factory automation distributor based in Cary, N.C., recently analyzed electrical reliability data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to get a better look at the frequency and duration of power outages across the US. Following is some of what they found:
Maine has the most frequent outages in the United States with an average of 3.9 outages per customer each year. Washington, D.C., has the least frequent outages with an average of just 0.7 annually.
Florida is home to the longest outages in the nation, with an average of 14.6 hr of electrical downtime per customer each year. Maine is close behind with 14.1 hr annually.
Major events (like hurricanes and blizzards) largely attribute to these high stats. Maine experienced 150% longer downtimes when considering these major events, while Florida experienced 580% more.
To read the full report, see: yyyWeb Link


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2022 at 8:42 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

Thanks to swuzy, the only commenter coming here so far with actual data. I totally get that a short outage is inconvenient but to say that we're the worst in the nation or that we're a third world country? Let's tone down the rhetoric a bit.

I used to live in Texas and my friends from there post about frequent outages during cold AND hot events. It's made national news, several times.

And Florida was the other state I was going to mention, because of hurricane season. They have to basically expect outages, seasonally.

I'm grateful that today's outage was so small and so short, during a record-breaking heatwave. I pulled my fridge off the grid and plugged it into my EV, to do my part to help the grid. This gets at the "how will we do 100% electrification" question. While we still have a ways to go to get there, one thing we need is the ability to have backup batteries available at home for large-draw electric appliances.


Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2022 at 8:45 pm

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

And yet Gav insists on an electric car mandate. Palo Alto needing to be a "leader"in the green/climate change movement has issued a mandate for the switch from natural gas, a clean, cost efficient natural resource to electricity in all new construction and demand replacement with electric appliances should your older ones need to be changed out despite the fact that the grid presently can't handle the demand for what we have now and to build it up will take decades, just like the high speed rail boondoggle. Wanna bet that 29 billion surplus Newsom keeps talking about won't be used for any of this. Not one penny. What are they thinking? Oh, wait. They're not.


Posted by PA Community Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2022 at 8:52 pm

PA Community Advocate is a registered user.

It’s odd that people don’t believe in holding monopolies and a state government with absurd tax revenue accountable. This one party state is brainwashed.


Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2022 at 8:56 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Paly02: Who said that we were the "worst in the nation?" I'd offer a rebuttal that the issues brought up in that article cited by swuzy (comparing states and their outages) refer to major events (e.g., blizzards, hurricanes, etc.) taking out part of the infrastructure.

Our issue is not about broken infrastructure. It's just our grid once again struggling to provide power to existing customers during hot weather. By some states' (like Texas and Florida) standards, this current heat wave isn't even that bad.


Posted by Bill Ross
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 6, 2022 at 9:15 pm

Bill Ross is a registered user.

The reality is the PSPS matrix an implementing action of State Legislation meant to address an acknowledged problem the lack of reliable power generation. I could care less about Florida. I look to the capability of the Pacific Grid and it’s decreasing ability to address generation shortages. More directly I look to The City to adequately staff utilities so that residents that have pending (and paid for) solar projects can have them timely processed. Individuals who assume responsibility to address the problem should not be delayed by the lack of adequate staffing.


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2022 at 9:31 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Nayeli heatwaves aren't major events? Only blizzards and hurricanes? Heatwaves also take out infrastructure, so saying that our issue isn't broken infrastructure is wrong.


Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2022 at 10:21 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@Paly02 - This isn't a "heat wave" by the standards of most states. I was in Texas for more than two weeks during the summer (along the Rio Grande Valley Texas/Mexico border) and the temps were over 100 everyday. We drove 345 miles north to Austin and it was 106 there. The locals didn't seem to notice. We certainly never had any power outages.

Besides, the point of that article cited by "swuzy" is that most outages mentioned are outages due to snapped power lines, downed poles/towers or general natural disasters (like blizzards and hurricanes). Our "heat wave" would barely be noticed in states like Texas, Florida, Arizona or Oklahoma. However, in California, our grid can't take even short-term, incremental bursts of hot weather.

And so you know: This heat wave isn't PHYSICALLY taking out the infrastructure. It's just that our grid cannot handle the demand.


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2022 at 2:08 am

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

This is unquestionably a heat wave -- the highest recorded temperatures on successive days in N.Cal history. Yes, it gets hotter elsewhere. But it never before has been as hot for as long as it has been (and may continue) here in SCC.

I state the obvious because it still seems necessary. What we are experiencing is a result of climate change caused entirely by human behavior. The only opportunity we have to get out of this alive -- but only if we act quickly -- is to take significant, material corrective action -- such as everything we can do to stop burning fossil fuels, while urging our govts to enable and subsidize climate corrective actions on a larger scale. This is the *only* path forward.

One of the most dangerous aspects of climate events like this heat wave is that often people react in ways that compound the problem. For example, using ACs to combat the heat -- even so-called "sustainable air conditioner systems" (should such an oxymoron exist)--results in the emission of extremely potent greenhouse gasses that tear through the ozone layer, furthering our problem. The result is more frequent, significant, and deadly heat waves -- unless we change our behaviors quickly.

It is true that we need urgent investment in our energy infrastructure, including "the grid." We need this across the board: transit to replace single-occupancy vehicles, water recycling programs to replace environmentally destructive dams, and active regeneration of forests & native plants, which will in time cool the air.

But that doesn't mean that we can't or shouldn't do what we can. Paly02 mentioned that they plugged their refrigerator into their EV, which took the energy-intensive appliance off the grid to be powered by the electricity storage capacity of an electric car. (In this way, EVs actually assist with overtaxed grids, rather than tax them further.) I also hope that those who can, use fans instead of AC.

We have *one* path forward: we must change our behaviors, together, now.


Posted by One Town Over
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 7, 2022 at 7:05 am

One Town Over is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2022 at 7:55 am

ndn is a registered user.

I very much appreciate those whose comments are born out of factual information and not out of political frustration.
No, we in California are not like a third World country, not even like a second World country.
Places that are accustomed to certain kinds of weather related events are , of course!!!!!! prepared or better prepared for events that that are not routine for others. Parts of New Mexico, Texas have always been extremely hot and so people and their abodes are set for what is the run-of-the mill for them. In parts of California that is not the case and so, extraordinary events will have some out of the ordinary measures. Why is that such a big deal? No power for an hour? Not really a problem at all. We all do the best we can and that includes Palo Alto Utilities.
Please stop insulting people- Palo alto City Council may not be the perfect City Council, but calling them corrupt is libelous and indefensible, but also ridiculously lacking in foundation.
And ill will instead of an understanding of the challenges faced by city governments and Utilities compounds the problems. Stop being part of the problem by criticizing those who try their best to cope.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2022 at 8:06 am

Bystander is a registered user.

These brief blackouts, how are they deciding on which area? Did those who lost power on Monday get exempt from the brief blackout? Do those who had power last night and Monday, get to be the ones who have a brief blackout this evening?

Those power alerts on phones are being disabled as too annoying by many people. In future when there is a real need to get word out (say after a major earthquake or forest fire) many will not hear the alert.

Do we really need an alert to ask us to use less power? Mine came as I was driving on my way to dinner in an EV. We ate outside and I can only imagine that the food was cooked by gas rather than electricity, although of course they probably needed power to keep the refrigerators and billing devices working!


Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2022 at 11:30 am

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

@ Rebecca Eisenberg ... please cite the evidence that human behavior is "entirely responsible" for changes in weather patterns and climate. Fear mongering around climate (acting quickly or we're doomed) has been going on for 3 decades or longer. All the doomsday predictor variables have been wrong. Just ask Al Gore. Actions have been taken locally to clean up the environment (we all want better quality air and water), but when and until the rest of the world gets on board with making a difference, much of what we do locally is of no consequence in the overall condition of the planet.


Posted by Gordon
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 11:46 am

Gordon is a registered user.

We have a heat wave and our grid fails to be able to support it.
Our State votes to eventually have all of our cars (think about all of the cars here and in L.A.!) be electric and the massive amount of electric energy that will require.
But you hear NOTHING from the State for plans to massively increase our electric power generation. No wonder people are leaving.
Don't forget - we voted for them - and I am severely disappointed.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 7, 2022 at 12:07 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Ok, let's not call our CC corrupt; let's call them addicted to short-sighted virtue signalling that ignores reality>

How can PA proudly insist on the city going all electric without insisting that the grid FIRST be updated? How can they preach we should get out of our cars when they neglect to respond to VTA and thus get our shuttles cut because they duplicate VTA's route?
How can PA pitch solar while ignoring the fact that a poorly performing employee failed to issue ANY solar permits, costing residents thousands of dollars and causing the solar contractors to boycott PA? (They didn't even realize no permits were being granted until Palo Alto Online reported on the problem and then Mr. Lait's response was to double-team so the employees could "learn" from each other! While costing us twice as much!)


How can the state insist that we densify to absorb many more people WHILE making it illegal to CONSIDER the drought, the grid failures, the fire risks?? They also ignore the fact that the numbers are WRONG and based on pre-pandemic jobs numbers.

That goes beyond virtue-signalling and borders on corruption to keep their developer/big tech backers happy while ignoring the fact that 85% of the MARKET RATE units are for well-paid singles/ couples, not families.


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:02 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

Wow, there is a lot of disinformation here. Both the city AND the state are actively working to update the electric grid. I keep up with the latest on this front because I want them both to move faster :-) But they definitely ARE working on it, so don't claim that they're not.


Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:06 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Re: "No power for an hour? Not really a problem at all."

We need to consider others in designing our infrastructure. Plenty of people are not able to e.g. ride a bike to a store or visit a cooling center. No power (and so no AC) for even an hour can cause significant issues for sensitive people. Not all of our houses are well-insulated and fitted with whole-house AC systems.


Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:10 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

@Paly02
The simplest solution, which we had in place before the state government decided to get rid of it, is to have plenty of "peaking" gas turbine power generation plants available to rapidly increase power supply in situations like this.

I'm glad that the state government is working on the issue, but we are all disappointed that they got rid of a working system before having the "better" replacement in place.


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:12 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Mondoman "we need to design for others"

Agreed, and that is why I think the city should help provide backup battery power for low/middle income folks with medical necessity for power to always be on


Posted by Gordon
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Gordon is a registered user.

First, I would not consider "updating the electric grid" to be massively increasing electric generation.
Second, I said we don't HEAR about the State massively increasing electric generation.
If the State was massively increasing our electric generation capabilities, it would be front page news, if for no other reason than the environmental issues.
Wouldn't a responsible leader have also proposed the electric generation plan for all those mandated electric car sales? Especially when the State is already grappling with rolling black-outs?
Or is it the claim that "conservation measures" and "updating the electric grid" will negate any need for future electric generation capabilities?


Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:44 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Apparently the Tuesday rolling blackout was all just a big mistake! From the Mercury News:
"...electric regulators said California avoided rolling blackouts Tuesday just in time for cooler weather. So why did several thousand people in Palo Alto, Alameda and Healdsburg lose power?
Those Northern California cities and others may have inadvertently initiated rolling blackouts in error following a miscommunication with the California Independent System Operator Tuesday after it declared a rare stage 3 emergency..."


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:48 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Mondoman..... AMAZING

@Gordon, when I said update the electric grid, I meant both hardening AND adding electric generation. It may not make the "if it bleeds, it leads" news but you can read more about the projects on the CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) website: Web Link


Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2022 at 2:09 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

The Governor of CA is an empty suit, but I still like living in Palo Alto. It usually does not snow, have a lot of humidity, cools off in the evening, however, not enough people have left California.


Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2022 at 2:30 pm

ndn is a registered user.

Do speak for yourself only!

I talked to the power grid fairy and he said (yes, it's a he and wears a pink fluffy dress and pointed embroidered shoes) and he said that due to age he can no longer wave his finger and presto power grid is on again. He said it takes about one hour to do that for most people.
He also said that's misleading to exclaim that there are too many people in California since population density varies a lot. He himself lives in the Mendocino forest with a good fresh breeze of the Sea coming in every day and visits Palo Alto now and then but thinks that some Palo Altans
are chronic complainers and think of themselves as entitled to his power but mostly complaining is due to old age and too much of a cushy life.
He then disappeared into the unpopulated woods and declared himself semi-retired.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 7, 2022 at 2:32 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Mondoman's quite correct as per articles in both the SJ Merc and the SF Chronicle. Evidently all the cities erroneously shutting down have their own utilities.

Web Link


Posted by Gordon
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 2:38 pm

Gordon is a registered user.

@Paly02 - Obviously in this short time I did not read the entire CPUC website - but I did not find any obvious document that said they are massively/significantly increasing electric generation. I did find a lot of 'we want to conserve', 'improve efficiency' and 'incentivize demand reduction'-type projects and chargin station projects (good) - but I could not readily see a program for any large-scale electric generation projects. Please point these out to me as I desperately want @ndn's power grid fairy to wave his finger again and for many decades to come!


Posted by Peter Venkman
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 2:41 pm

Peter Venkman is a registered user.

It is extremely hot, I am annoyed, have way too much free time and online commentary provides the ability to express my discontent. Don’t worry, I’ll find other outrages when this heat breaks. But I guess sometimes *this* happens, who you gonna call?


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 3:05 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Gordon, unfortunately it's... complicated and this is why I wish there *were* more articles around it. Every gov't website is super jargony and full of legalese. But here's part of of the process - if you go down to the section titled "Integrated Resource Plan and Long Term Procurement Plan" that brings you to a webpage that basically shows that they are going to figure out how to procure the amount of energy needed. That's their job.

But where do they figure out how much energy is needed? That is the job of the California Energy Commission (CEC), which does a study - I think yearly but no less than once every 3 years - where they forecast model expected energy usage based upon a number of factors. Off the top of my head, a few of these include predicted future weather patterns, demographic or industry changes, policy changes at the state, county and local level, and recent history of usage. From that study, the CEC chooses what they term the most likely "demand scenario" and send that data along to the folks at CPUC who will work on procurement (after a whole bunch of other conversations/workshops/etc).

I've taken a look at the initial proposed demand scenario for 2025 because that's the one being worked on right now at the CEC. It models higher electric demand than before but, in my mind, not high enough for us to meet our climate goals through 100% electrification. Because I believe that getting to 100% electrification is what we have to do, I am going to lobby for them to choose one of the higher demand scenarios in order to help us achieve our climate goals.

So because I've looked at this process, I know that they are working on increasing electric generation BUT in my mind it is not fast enough yet for what we are going to need.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 7, 2022 at 3:46 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Re some comments above, I don't know if it's helpful, but I wrote about the state's plans to acquire much more power, and specifically power that can be available when it's most needed, here: Web Link


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2022 at 4:31 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

This has been an enlightening conversation. Thank you, Paly02, and thank you also, Sherry. Your column in this publication is an important service, and I know I speak for many when I say I appreciate your work.

To ndn - this is a fantastic opportunity to point out that Northern California a mere 150 years ago was home to the most robust, oldest, and largest forest on earth. Now there is only 3% (three percent!!) of that original forest still intact. The original trees sometimes were *thousands* of years old.

Web Link

The rest of this comment may seem OT to some. If so, please skip.

To City Council and City Staff (& the rest of us who have opportunities to try to educate them); New growth is NEVER a replacement for an ancient tree. Never. The ancient forests of former CA, which took thousands/millions of years to develop and grow, cannot return for thousands/mils years, if at all.

Why do we need ancient trees? Ancient trees do wonders for our natural environment. There is no more effective sequester of carbon from the atmosphere, and when old (all) trees take much carbon dioxide, they convert it to oxygen. Magic!! Their roots make our ground solid & enrich our soil with nutrients that empower other plants to grow, including plants that provide the most nutritious and delicious foods. They create shade, allowing other living creatures and plants, including humans, to enjoy healthy and pleasant lives. They also smell magnificent. We have not begun to explore all the amazing science of ancient trees.

When a developer/owner asks CC for exceptions from the tree ordinance to remove an ancient tree, or if they just remove them anyway as unfortunately happens--and which the COPA has done as well--please join me in speaking up. These trees are literally priceless.

Thank you for considering.

PS I don't engage trolls, so someone else can respond to the climate-change denier above if they want. Or not.


Posted by Gordon
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2022 at 4:56 pm

Gordon is a registered user.

@Paly02 - thanks, I will read the document you referred to in my voluminous spare time.....
However, I think our concerns are similar but from a different perspective. That is, if I understand you correctly (always dangerous), you are concerned with the speed of attaining certain demand goals and perhaps the forecasted demand level. Obviously those are crucial elements and forecasting, as we all know, is not government's strong suit. However, I am more concerned with where that electricity is going to come from. Most power generating facilities take years (in many cases, decades) to get into production. And the scale that will be necessary will be overwhelming. The environmental concerns (read:environmentalists grinding everything to a halt) will surely lead us to a point where the government has pushed consumers into an electric society and we simply do not have enough to meet the demand and everyone will be blaming someone else.

I would posit that the State is doing things backwards, that is they are working first to build demand for electricity as the next replacement for fossil fuels (e.g. mandating sales of electric cars). Instead, the State should be working on building/incentivize the building of the electric infrastructure first. This would drive down the cost of electricity and we would have a better chance of meeting this new demand. This would also hasten the incentive for consumers to buy electric cars, etc. and make rolling black-outs a thing of the past. I think the only downside would be that people might start moving back to CA.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2022 at 2:13 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

ndn - im sure this has been said in reference to it only being an hour to endure heat. heat related illnesses are real. i lived in texas for 10 years in the 90s. it got progressively hotter for me and i developed some permanent health issues that are exacerbated by temperatures above 80. heart attacks and strokes are common under heat stress, as well as cognitive malfunction. just this week, 5 hikers in az survived to be rescued while a 32 year old doctor among their group succumbed to extreme heat exposure. doctors should know better, right? when heat overtakes you, its like hypothermia. your body undergoes a rapid onset of debilitating symptoms -- the worst one being that you cant think your way out of the physical crisis. All the planning of your route on a hike flies out the window when you realize youre lost, and youve run out of water. it might take 15 minutes or an hour to realize you are not in command of your own body to rescue yourself. palo alto is not known for its sweltering heat, its known for its mild climate. in texas, you adapt to the climate or you move to somewhere more comfortable. in palo alto, this is a whole new ball game and most residents are getting on the job training during a heat crisis. texas summers werent that bad in 1990 and the economic tradeoffs were worth it. now texas is as expensive as palo alto, with more heat and humidity than ever. plus tornadoes, lightning storms, floods and baseball sized hail. and people who still wear cowboy boots and spurs :) i am considering a move to maine.


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