It will still be a headache, but doing a few simple things now can help.
It looks like PG&E is going to shut off power in large parts of the Bay Area tomorrow early morning in order to reduce the risk of wildfires. I have been getting asked by colleagues about what they might do to deal with that. I’m no engineer, but I have spoken to quite a few, and here are some suggestions.
- Charge your electronics. But if you have a modern vehicle, keeping your cell phone charged is not going to be the challenge. You can charge it from your car. Likewise for your other devices with a USB connection.
- Since you are going to be using your car as a generator. Make sure it has fuel. Fill your gas tank.
- Charge any USB LED lights. We have one of these
- Have water stored. No electricity for long periods could mean problems with water delivery due to lack of power for pumping.
- Refrigeration may be the biggest challenge. The first and easiest thing to do is to turn your freezer setting to its lowest level NOW to bring the freezer to minimum possible temperature.
- If you have more than 12 hours before the shut off, it probably makes sense to fill containers with water and have your freezer turn them into ice. That is the best thermal mass to keep your freezer cold. You can also transfer some of that frozen mass to your refrigerator to help keep it cold.
Feel free to add further suggestions in the comments. Good luck to everyone who may have their power shut off.
And remember that the reason for the shutoff is high risk of wildfires. Be extra careful with fires, power tools, autos and anything else that can start a wildfire.
Severin Borenstein is E.T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the Haas School of Business and Faculty Director of the Energy Institute at Haas. He has published extensively on the oil and gasoline industries, electricity markets and pricing greenhouse gases. His current research projects include the economics of renewable energy, economic policies for reducing greenhouse gases, and alternative models of retail electricity pricing. In 2012-13, he served on the Emissions Market Assessment Committee that advised the California Air Resources Board on the operation of California’s Cap and Trade market for greenhouse gases. He chaired the California Energy Commission's Petroleum Market Advisory Committee from 2015 until its completion in 2017. Currently, he is a member of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's Advisory Council and a member of the Board of Governors of the California Independent System Operator.