Assemblymember Holden’s Statement on the August Electricity Outage Root Caucus Analysis Report

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sacramento (CA) – Today, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and California Energy Commission (CEC) released the final Root Cause Analysis Report on the August 14th and 15th electricity outages.

“A reliable power system underpins our economy and quality of life,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden.  “From the analysis, we now understand that central to the mid-August outages was a lack of planning and execution, and that no one generation resource triggered the outages.  I am pleased to see the energy principals working together to address the critical problems, and find long term and short solutions.”

In mid-August, for the first time in 20 years, the California Independent System Operator directed utilities to trigger rotating outages. The event was due to a confluence of events and regulatory shortcomings that led to a shortfall in available supply to meet demand.

The broad scale de-energization took place with little to no public warning. On those dates, there was a rare West-wide heat storm, which affected both the demand and supply of generation. The multi-day heat storm meant that there was limited overnight cooling, so air conditioners continued to run well into the evening and the next day. The heat storm occurred as fires raged throughout the state and in the midst of a global pandemic.

In an August 17, 2020, letter to the energy organizations CEC, CPUC, CAISO, Governor Gavin Newsom called upon those entities to conduct a root-cause analysis into the rotating outages.

On October 6, 2020, the energy organization released a preliminary root-cause analysis. The findings in the final analysis released today remained mostly unchanged in identifying the several factors that, in combination, led to the need for the CAISO to direct utilities in the CAISO footprint to trigger rotating outages. The Analysis found that there was no single root cause of the outages.  

The contributing factors identified in the energy organizations Root Cause Analysis include:

The climate change-induced extreme heat storm across the western United States resulted in the demand for electricity exceeding the existing electricity resource planning targets. The existing resource planning processes are not designed to fully address an extreme heat storm like the one experienced in mid-August.
In transitioning to a reliable, clean, and affordable resource mix, resource planning targets have not kept pace to lead to sufficient resources that can be relied upon to meet demand in the early evening hours. This makes balancing demand and supply more challenging. These challenges were amplified by the extreme heat storm.
Some practices in the day-ahead energy market exacerbated the supply challenges under highly stressed conditions.
“Shortly after the outage I put the energy organizations on notice that the Utilities and Energy Committee is seeking regular updates and progress reports on the implementation of actions addressing the deficiencies identified in the preliminary root-cause analysis and the final report – and they are adequately meeting that request. Our Committee will at a minimum, hold a hearing prior to this summer to discuss these issue into summer readiness,” continued Holden.