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Climate Change Is Straining California’s Energy System, Officials Say

Torrid heat, raging wildfires and prolonged drought are putting California residents at increased risk of power outages, officials said Friday, as extreme weather driven by climate change puts additional stress on the state’s already-taxed energy grid.

Officials said in an online briefing that they were preparing for a scenario in 2022 that would see California fall short of energy demands by about 1,700 megawatts. The shortfall is likeliest to occur in the summer after the sun sets, depriving energy providers of solar energy.

One megawatt is enough electrical capacity to power 1,000 average California homes, according to the California Energy Commission. Under poor conditions, the state could lack the amount of energy it takes to power more than one million homes.

The situation could be worsened if a heat wave causes residents to turn to air-conditioners for comfort en masse, driving up energy demand.

The state is also increasing its investment in renewable energy, which helps address demand without contributing to the conditions that are straining California’s energy grid.

“The past few summers, we’ve had to rely on emergency measures,” said Alice Reynolds, the president of California’s Public Utilities Commission. “But at the same time, the grid is getting cleaner and cleaner.”

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