Skip to content
Green
Cleaner Tech

California’s Battery Problems Heighten Threat of Power Outages

The way the state triggers batteries to supply the grid is opening the door to mismatches with demand.

Power inverters outside the battery building at the Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility in Moss Landing, California.

Power inverters outside the battery building at the Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility in Moss Landing, California.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Updated on

The batteries that help fortify California’s electric grid are kicking in at times when they’re not really needed, draining the power source before more critical junctures and heightening the chances of blackouts as a blistering heat wave punishes the state. 

Batteries help to store extra electricity, generated by solar or hydropower. That surplus is supposed to act as a cushion for times when those intermittent renewable sources are running low. But the grid uses a pricing mechanism to trigger the batteries, rather than basing it on pure demand levels. That can lead to mismatches.