SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Silicon Valley business leaders warn that power shutoffs and the unreliability of the electric grid threaten the state’s thriving economy, including its important technology industry.
“The uncertainty is the greatest threat they face to running their businesses in Silicon Valley today,” said Tim McRae, Vice President at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. McRae is in charge of the organization’s energy policy.
The impending power shutoffs were a frequent topic of discussion at the organization’s annual luncheon Friday, which brought together hundreds of business, political and community leaders.
“I think I join every leader in California to express my deep concern that this cannot be the new normal,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff when asked about the impact of PG&E’s policy to turn off power to prevent wildfires when faced with high-wind events.
Disruptions to the power grid can have enormous impacts on businesses — large and small. San Jose Mayor Sam Licarrdo says many high-tech companies are exploring ways to reduce their reliance on the power grid or wean themselves off it entirely.
“There are many companies investing in what we call micro-grids — local power generation and storage on their sites. And now cities are increasingly investing in them,” Licarrdo said.
PG&E officials have warned the public that power shutoffs may be necessary for the next decade. But Silicon Valley business leaders say companies may not be content to wait that long and could locate to other areas with more reliable supplies of power.
“We should not have to wait a decade. This is such a fundamental problem. We’re going to have to look at ways to accelerate the innovation,” said Jim Hawley of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.