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San Francisco's State of Emergency and Microgrids

California Governor Edmund Brown, Jr., recently declared a state of emergency for the City and ‎County of San Francisco. The City and County of San Francisco and the San Francisco Public ‎Utilities Commission had previously declared their own states of emergency and requested that ‎Governor Brown do the same. The reason: wildfires threatening critical electric infrastructure that ‎provides service to San Francisco. (These are the same wildfires threatening Yosemite National ‎Park). Transmission lines and two of the three hydropower facilities serving San Francisco have ‎been shut down as a result of the wildfires, which are threatening San Francisco’s electricity ‎supply. As a result of the declaration, San Francisco is authorized to spend $600,000 to purchase ‎electricity on the open market.‎

To date, the most widely publicized natural disaster threats to grid interruptions have been ‎hurricanes (and superstorms), tornadoes and earthquakes. Now, add wildfires to that list.

One measure to defend critical infrastructure from an interruption of the electric grid is a ‎microgrid. Microgrids protect against grid instability by being able to island electric usage in a ‎defined area off from the grid using on-site generation and storage capabilities. The Southwest ‎doesn’t have many earthquakes or hurricanes, but it does have wildfires. Given the recent history ‎of wildfires in Arizona and Colorado, it is likely that the Southwest’s electric infrastructure, too, ‎will be endangered by wildfires. Municipalities and users of critical infrastructure should look ‎into microgrids as a mechanism to keep the power flowing in the face of a threat to the electric ‎grid by a wildfire or another unforeseen grid interruption.

Dave McGimpsey, Special Counsel at Rothgerber, Johnson & Lyons LLP, authored this post.

©2019 All Rights Reserved. Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP


About this Author

Thomas H. Campbell, Energy, Telecommunications, Attorney, Lewis & Roca Law firm

Mr. Campbell's practice is concentrated in the areas of regulatory and administrative law, particularly energy, telecommunications, water and utility regulation. Mr. Campbell represents energy companies in regulatory and contractual matters, including siting and building power plants and transmission lines, resource planning, renewable energy development, EPC contracts, transmission contracts, financings, rate applications and the purchase and sale of energy facilities. For instance, he represented an energy company in a multi-faceted transaction in which the company purchased the...