Three years ago, the hardest part of getting dozens of Los Angeles utility operators and emergency managers to model climate-change impacts was convincing them to suspend disbelief and imagine three to eight full days without power. The long-term power-outage scenarios we proposed were almost unthinkable.
Now, in response to the worst wildfires in California history, PG&E is preemptively turning off a million customers’ lights. So how is it playing out?
When cell-tower backup batteries run out, 911 is overrun with frantic calls from people who can’t reach their loved ones - interfering with emergency response. Municipal water districts beg their customers to stop watering their lawns - they need that water to fight fires. Firefighters could find their hoses empty if the power is cut to the wrong pumping station - coordination between lifelines is key. California is living the model’s predictions.
It may be uncomfortable to think across silos and beyond past experience. But it pays off - as the many wonderful technical experts who contributed to this California-Energy-Commission-funded report for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment have now shown.