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Q&A about power outages

Electric power goes out for one of three reasons. When the energy grid becomes strained due to one or more of these factors, outages can occur more frequently and be of longer duration.

  • Most often the wires or equipment built and operated by PG&E that bring power to your house or business have broken. PG&E crews are responsible for fixing the equipment.
  • Extreme heat and windy days pose severe risks of wildfires, so PG&E will shut off power to particular lines that are at risk of causing fires. If those lines are the ones that normally deliver power to you, your power will go out.
  • On very rare occasions, there is not enough power generated to meet demand. This happens most often during extreme heat events when there is particularly high demand to run air conditioners, and transmission lines and gas power plants are less able to generate and deliver power.

In unusual cases where customers have advance notice that their power may be turned off, some steps can be taken ahead of time to ensure comfort and to keep critical devices and appliances functioning. In hot weather, customers with air conditioning can precool their homes or businesses and keep window coverings closed. Devices that run on batteries, such as laptops, mobile phones or electric vehicles, should be fully charged. During brief power outages, refrigerator and freezer doors should be kept closed as much as possible.

Most customers cannot avoid losing power during a power outage that affects the wires or equipment bringing power to their homes or businesses. However, there are some backup power options available to homeowners and renters.

  • There are many portable battery devices that fit different needs. For powering devices that require a USB connection, such as smart phones, many products ranging from $20-$40 can charge multiple phones for several days, and typically take a few hours to half a day to charge up. Charge one of these in advance and you should be able to get through most power outages.
  • For powering laptops, slightly larger batteries are required. This NY Times review provides information about the best batteries to help keep laptops charged.
  • Most other electric appliances require a connection to a 110V outlet. For these types of appliances, a more robust portable battery is required. Backup power needs will vary widely depending on the type of equipment or appliances to remain powered throughout the power outage event. Here is a good list of potential options, ranging in size and price.
    • If you have an electric vehicle, you may also be able to power some of your devices from your car battery. Some new models may be able to power your house directly through your car charger cable. Other models can still support an inverter that can be used to power a small number of devices (typically up to 15 Amps). Other inverters can be attached to the 12V battery (the one gas cars also have), although many manufacturers discourage this and may void warranties, so check with your manufacturer.
    • Homeowners: If you have solar, or want to get solar, you should also evaluate the opportunity to add a battery to your solar system. Solar-paired batteries can keep your home powered for an extended period of time during power outages. Plan ahead because new battery installations can take months due to current supply chain issues.
    • For users of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices for sleep apnea treatment: Some CPAP manufacturers offer battery backup solutions specifically for their CPAP models. Check with the manufacturer.

No. Being a Peninsula Clean Energy customer doesn’t affect your likelihood of losing power. Power outages mostly happen because equipment somewhere breaks or because electrical lines must be shut off to avoid wildfire. Peninsula Clean Energy does not manage the physical wires (that’s PG&E’s job). For the very rare energy shortages, those are managed by the California Independent System Operator, or CAISO. Power outages ordered by CAISO happen in locations that are most useful in keeping the statewide grid as a whole in balance, rather than exclusively focused on solving a more localized outage.

If you have rooftop solar but no attached battery, chances are your solar system is designed to turn off once you lose power. This functionality exists to make sure that when line workers are trying to repower the grid, there is no energy flowing back onto the grid that would endanger them. If you do not have a backup battery as part of your rooftop solar system, you can reach out to the company who installed your system to evaluate the opportunity to add battery storage as well. These installations typically cost $15,000-$20,000+.

Customers can sign up here to receive outage alerts from PG&E and can check the PG&E outage maps here for detailed information about individual outages. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) manages the Flex Alert system that notifies consumers of possible power supply scarcities due to events like extremely hot weather. Sign up here to receive Flex Alerts and tips for energy conservation. For customers interested in understanding more about the real time operation, demand, supply and renewables composition of the California electricity grid, CAISO also provides the ISO Today phone app available in the App Store and on Google Play.

The best way to get an estimate of when your power will be restored is to type in your home or business address on the map at the PG&E Outage Center. You can also sign up here to receive outage alerts from PG&E.

Current electrical grid challenges and related safety shutoffs are most often driven by more frequent and severe wildfires and extreme weather events that are a consequence of accelerating climate change. Investing now in the clean energy transition will reduce these impacts over time. Since Peninsula Clean Energy customers receive 100% emission-free power, switching to electric transportation and home appliances means customers are not burning fossil fuels. This can help mitigate climate change impacts and decrease the frequency and severity of the wildfires and extreme weather events that can result in power outages.

In addition, clean energy technology is advancing rapidly to support a phase out of gas usage and to keep your home or business functioning during an outage. Examples include back-up battery storage for your home appliances and cars. See some suggestions in the response to question 2 above.