Monday, August 24, 2020 - 10:15

(TNS) - Signs of a problem within California’s power system emerged a full day before the blackouts hit.

Trader Dov Quint sat in his basement outside Boulder, Colorado, scouring the state’s day-ahead power market for opportunities to profit from California’s heat wave. He saw something strange: Prices for electricity to be delivered the next day — the day of the blackouts — were nearing $1,000 a megawatt-hour, more than 26 times higher than last year’s average.

The last time that happened, in July 2018, the forecast for demand had been much higher. Something was amiss — were energy supplies lower than usual?

In Folsom, California, system operators for the state’s vast electrical grid were looking at the same numbers — and forecasting a significant power shortfall starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14.

They had a full day to act. And yet, when Friday evening rolled around, nearly 2 million Californians were plunged into darkness in the first rolling blackouts to hit the state since the energy crisis 20 years ago. Without warning, utilities cut power to blocks of communities in a bid to save the state’s electric grid from cascading power failures amid the worst heat wave in generations.

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