The Yosemite Rim Fire has threatened to disrupt the power supply to San Francisco, just 150 miles to the west. Power continues to flow to customers, officials stressed, but a rise in wildlfires could post a broader threat to energy infrastructure.
Jae C. Hong/AP
No power disruptions have been reported, but the fire's creep toward the Hetch Hetchy power stations drove Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for the area of the fire and San Francisco, just 150 miles west.
The threat to energy infrastructure comes during a peak period for electricity demand in a state squeezed for capacity. In June, the troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in southern California was closed permanently. The current 125,000-acre wildfire in northern California, which has burned for 10 days and is 15 percent contained, is adding new stress on the state's energy distribution.
Power continues to flow to customers uninterrupted, officials stressed, and the Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric power stations in the fire's path do not make up core capacity.
"Hetch Hetchy provides only a small amount of all electricity used in California," Larry Dale, an environmental economist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, wrote in an e-mail. "It is locally important to San Francisco, but San Francisco obviously has other places to get electricity."
Most of the San Francisco area receives its power from Pacific Gas and Electric Co., but much of the city's municipal customers get electricity from the Hetch Hetchy Power System in Yosemite. That system of three hydroelectric powerhouses combine to offer 400 megawatts of clean energy.