Why California’s climate policies are causing blackouts

Millions of Californians were denied electricity and therefore air conditioning during a heat wave, increasing the risk of heat stroke and death, especially among the elderly and sick.

The blackouts come at a time when people, especially the elderly, are forced to stay indoors due to Covid-19.

As a first step, the state electricity grid operator asked customers last night to voluntarily reduce their electricity consumption. But after the power reserves has fallen to dangerous levels he declared a “Stage 3 emergency” cutting off power to residents of the state at 6:30 p.m.

The immediate reason for the blackouts was the failure of a 500 megawatt power station and the unavailability of a 750 megawatt unit out of service. “Nothing bad is happening here” mentioned a spokeswoman for California Independent System Operator (CAISO). “We’re just trying to make the grid work.”

But the underlying reasons California is experiencing blackouts for the second time in less than a year stem from state climate policies, which California policymakers have justified as necessary to prevent wave-induced deaths. heat.

In October, Pacific Gas and Electric shut off power to homes in California to avoid starting wildfires. The California utility and executives had, over the previous decade, diverted billions intended for grid maintenance to renewables.

And yesterday, California had to impose blackouts because it failed to maintain enough reliable electricity from natural gas and nuclear plants, or prepay enough imports. guaranteed electricity from other states.

It may be that the California utilities and their regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, which is also controlled by Governor Newsom, were unwilling to spend the extra money to guarantee the extra electricity for fear of increasing the Electricity prices in California even higher than they had already raised them.

California has seen its electricity prices ascend six times more than the rest of the United States from 2011 to 2019, due to its huge expansion of renewable energy. Republicans in the US Congress indicate to this massive increase to challenge Democrats’ justifications for spending $2 trillion on renewable energy in the name of climate change.

Even though the cost of solar panels has fallen significantly between 2011 and 2019, their unreliable and weather-dependent nature means they imposed significant new costs in the form of storage and transmission to maintain electricity reliability. California’s solar panels and farms were all shutting down as the blackouts began, with no help available from eastern states already as night fell.

Solar electricity is disappearing just as the demand for electricity increases. “Peak demand was steady late into the night,” said CAISO spokesman, which is controlled by Governor Gavin Newsom, “and we had thousands of megawatts of solar power slashing their output as the sun went down. “.

The two blackouts in less than a year are strong evidence that the tens of billions Californians have spent on renewable energy come with high human, economic and environmental costs.

Last December, a report produced for PG&E concluded that utility customers could see outages double in the next 15 years and quadruple in the next 30.

California’s anti-nuclear policies also contributed to the blackouts. In 2013, Governor Jerry Brown strength closure of a nuclear power plant, San Onofre, in southern California.

If San Onofre had still been running, there would almost certainly have been no power outages on Friday, as the reserve margin would have been significantly greater. San Onofre’s capacity was double the lost production capacity that triggered the outage.

California’s current and former large nuclear power plants are located on the coast, allowing their electricity to travel shorter distances, and through less constrained transmission lines than the state’s industrial solar farms, to reach in coastal towns where electricity is most in demand.

There have been very little electricity from the wind during the summer heat wave in California and the western United States, which further boosted demand. In fact, the same weather pattern, a stable high pressure bubble, is causing the heat waves, as it brought very low winds for days and very high temperatures.

Things won’t be any better, or even worse, in the winter, which produces much less solar electricity than in the summer. Solar storage plus, a costly attempt to fix problems like the ones that led to this outage, can’t help get through long, low-yield winters.

Electricity prices in California will continue to rise if it keeps adding more renewables to its grid and moves forward with plans to shut down its last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, in 2025.

Had California spent estimated at $100 billion on nuclear rather than wind and solar, it would have had enough energy to replace everything fossil fuels in its national electricity mix.

To manage the increasingly unreliable grid, California will have to either keep its nuclear power plant running, build more natural gas plants, or pay ever more money every year to reserve emergency power supplies. of its neighbours.

After the blackouts last October, Governor Newsom attacked PG&E Corp. for “greed and mismanagement” and appointed one of his main assistants, Ana Matosantos, to be his “energy czar”.

“It’s not the new normal, and it doesn’t take 10 years to solve,” Newsom mentioned. “The whole system needs to be redesigned.”

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