the 2020 California Blackout: Another Electricity Crisis?

At a time of remarkable acceleration in the worldwide economies’ transition to clean energy, California state has been leading all states in the U.S. for consecutive years. The renewable market trends and clean technology advances started by California wields enormous power to influence environmental policy nationally and even globally. The progress of California’s energy market transition thus is closely watched by public and media. Nearly 20 years ago, shortly after California turned to the new wholesale power market and innovative customer choice program, a series of significant supply shortages and blackouts in California had attracted much attention from the media. The arguments on market manipulation, aftermath of several utility bankruptcy, and temporal economic stagnation still haunted the California people until now. However, 20 years later, on August 14$^{th}$, 2020, grid operator CAISO issued another series of short-term rolling blackouts. For the first time since 2001, California is suffering another energy emergency and makes the headlines of major newspapers in the world again. But how exactly is this happening? Why weren’t the power managers able to plan ahead for this? And most importantly, what’s the essential difference between two outages in two decades? In this writeup, we will dive into some details of the darkening California electric system and find the culprits behind two supply shortage events.

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