California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA



Climate change is pushing the power grid to the limit. Energy storage could help. CCSC’s Dr. Eric Fournier talks to Vox Unexplainable about the electric grid.

But many blackouts can also be blamed on how the electric system works. Namely: The goal of the power grid is to deliver electricity to your home as soon as it’s been generated at a power plant. There isn’t a great pool of electricity waiting in reserve for when demand spikes. Experts say that needs to change. “Electricity systems are real-time systems,” said Eric Fournier, research director at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. There’s little room for error.


Surviving in the Age of Megafires

How do we survive in the age of climate change driven megafires? The Big Burn podcast from LAist Studios tries to answer that complex question by exploring how we got here, how we keep screwing things up, and what we can do to survive and even thrive while the world around us burns. -- Stephanie Pincetl, guest panelist


We Need to Take Better Care of Our Forests – Dr. Pincetl in Esquire

The area encompassing both Southern California and Baja in Mexico have what’s known as chaparral ecosystems: dry soil, hot weather, and short shrubs. But these two regions’ fire lives have played out very differently. “Right across the border, there are very similar chaparral ecosystems,” Pincetl said, but “that chaparral has not had the benefit of fire suppression, because the Mexicans simply can't afford it. And it continues to exhibit this low intensity fire pattern, which does not kill the chaparral, but there are unsuppressed fires that occur on a relatively regular basis. And people don't die. The houses aren't burned. There's not huge conflagrations. So how do we get back to that kind of chaparral, is the question.”


The real reason a heat wave is pushing California’s power grid to its limits

Heat’s impact on the grid is twofold, explained Eric Fournier, research director at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. First, more people turn on their air conditioners and run them for longer on hot days, which means electricity demand is higher. Second, heat has a physical impact on the infrastructure of the grid, making wires less efficient at moving electricity and pushing transformers and thermal power plants to their temperature limits. As the temperature rises, those air conditioners have to work harder to cool the air — which means they draw more power, straining the grid even more. “So you get this feedback loop,” said Fournier.