California’s power grid emergency shows betting on energy policy is a bad bet

California may be a trailblazer or an indicator in many ways, but after 10 network alerts and emergency statements in as many days, let’s hope that this will not be the case when it comes to energy and climate policy.

In the past two weeks, shortly after state bureaucrats finalized a rule banning the sale of gas-powered cars after 2035, Californians have received notice of the state region network manager (the “arbiter” responsible for grid reliability) to reduce electricity consumption in hopes of avoiding outages.

Record high demand during a heat wave strained the power grid to power air conditioners, appliances, electric cars and lighting, as well as businesses and industry.

Such a heat wave is beyond the control of Californians, but hot, dry weather is nothing new to California and should be a given when planning for grid reliability.

Instead, California policymakers have pursued two competing policy priorities, neither of which has anything to do with reliability.

In a sense, California is trying to force the electrification of everything. For example, California:

California’s other major policy goal is to mandate economy-wide “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest, just as Europe has done. To this end, the State Attorney General is opposite expansion of a natural gas pipeline from Canada, and the Legislative Assembly recently passed tougher measures regulations on oil and gas production wells.

California too warrants that more than half of its electricity comes from renewable energies by 2030. almost entirely eliminated the production and imports of electricity from coal, and lost 5 gigawatts of natural gas electricity over the past decade.

Confusingly, California also opposes emission-free nuclear power and has lost more than 2 gigawatts in the past decade as it nearly lost its last nuclear plant, Diablo’s Canyon (before the Legislative Assembly changed its mind and recently adopted a $1.4 billion forgivable loan to keep it running for another five years).

While California has increase wind and solar capacity up close 17 gigawatts over the past decade to fulfill the mandates and attempt to replace lost power from other sources, theoretical capacity is not necessarily Translate to the actual electricity production.

The impractical reality of solar panels is that they are of little use when the sun begins to set and the demand for electricity increases. It’s no surprise that the California network operator’s latest emergency notices often start at 4 p.m., and emergency requests were issued to keep some natural gas and even oil-fired facilities online.

The California bet

In other words, as California pushes policies to increase demand for electricity, it also shuts down access to major sources of electricity.

For years, Grid Reliability Coordinators for California and all of North America have known that “California’s electrical resources are insufficient to handle the risk of loss of load when widespread heat events occur”. Instead, California contracts out grid reliability to other states and depends on imports for 20% to 30% of its electricity, making California the first largest importer of electricity.

The more political constraints California places on the grid, the more fragile it becomes, turning routine stressors California can rely on — “heat events,” cloudy days, fewer imports from neighboring states — into emergencies. .

Yet the Biden administration is seeking to export California’s political betting for electrification and “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions to the rest of the country.

As Californians have just found out, greenhouse gas emissions aren’t the most important priority, let alone the only one, when it comes to keeping the lights on.

Reliability is important, but thousands of Californians were left without power and the grid was in a state of emergency for 10 days.

Affordability is important, but Californians regularly pay a portion of highest prices in the country.

And, whatever its opinion on global warming, California could immediately eliminate all its greenhouse gas emissions with no discernible impact on global temperatures by the end of the century.

Praising California for managing to avoid major blackouts this time around is therefore like congratulating a gambling addict for not losing the house.

A beauty of the American system of government is that it allows California to conduct its own experiment. But ideas from California tend to move east, and Americans should work their best to prevent President Joe Biden from imposing this bet on the rest of the country.

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