It’s hot in California. It’s also dark, thanks to rolling electrical blackouts that have been imposed due to green energy policies that have left the state poorly prepared to handle its sweltering summers.
The state’s largest electrical company, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), cut power to around 500,000 Californians beginning on Monday. The blackouts are expected to last until Wednesday and are preventative in order to ensure strong winds don’t down power lines and start wildfires, as happened in the deadly 2018 Camp Fire.
In Los Angeles, nearly 90,000 people were without power on Sunday night, and it was expected to take up to two days to restore power to all customers. This, despite the fact the state avoided some rolling blackouts since enough customers shut off their electricity to prevent a forced blackout on Sunday.
“It’s almost 3 p.m. Time to turn off major appliances, set the thermostat to 78 degrees (or use a fan instead), turn off excess lights and unplug any appliances you’re not using,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted on Sunday. “We need every Californian to help conserve energy. Please do your part. #FlexAlert”
The energy shortage prompted the federal government to get involved. On Sunday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued an order allowing for the “emergency use” of power generators and relaxing regulations on air quality, so power plants could produce more electricity.
Temperatures in California have consistently exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit and reached a “record of 121 degrees set in Los Angeles County” on Sunday.
In mid-August, California had its first rolling blackout “related to supply since 2001.”
According to Michael Wara, the Director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at Stanford University, who gave testimony to the U.S. Senate, in 2019, Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) or (blackouts) “cost customers more than $10 billion – that’s 0.3% of gross state product or 10% of overall economic growth this year in California.”
Additionally, California customers are paying more for less. The United States Energy Information Administration reported that between 2011 and 2017, electricity prices in California rose five times more than in the rest of the country. In those six years, the average cents/kilowatt-hour (kWh) increased from 13.1 cents to 16.2 cents in California. Meanwhile, for the rest of the nation, the cost of electricity increased from 9.7 cents to 10.1 cents/kWh.
Photo from Environmental Progress
Michael Schellenberger, author of the new book Apocalypse Never, posits that the reason for the dramatic spike in electricity prices is because California has spent too much money investing in green energy, while failing to invest in other areas.
“Electric utility PG&E may cut power to 500k customers. Why? Because it spent billions on unreliable renewables rather than maintaining grid (i.e. clearing vegetation from near electrical wires) thereby raising electric prices 6x more in than in rest of US,” Schellenberger wrote on Twitter.
According to The Wall Street Journal, California reduced electricity produced by natural gas-fired power plants by 21% between 2014 and 2017. At the same time, “it increased renewable energy consumption by 54%.”
This has caused the power supply to decrease significantly when the sun begins to set, since solar production drops off.
“The crunch time for the state’s grid operator isn’t the actual power demand peak in late afternoon—it is when the sun starts to fall in early evening, and the renewable energy the state is increasingly dependent on begins to wane,” The WSJ noted.
After issuing its order allowing max production of energy due to the heat wave on Sunday, DOE Spokeswoman Shaylyn Haynes recommended California consider using more fossil fuels to prevent future power disruptions.
“While the Secretary has offered this emergency assistance to California in this time of crisis, he also encourages state policymakers to evaluate why the grid is not able to handle extreme stress, which could be alleviated with the support of greater baseload power generation and natural gas supply,” Spokeswoman Haynes said.
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Photo from Unsplash
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