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California Blackouts Put the Spotlight on Green Energy Shortfalls



Wind farm producing Green Energy on California Desert | California Blackouts Put the Spotlight on Green Energy Shortfalls | Featured

California utilities are instituting rolling blackouts in the middle of a scorching heatwave in the state’s latest struggle with inadequate electricity supplies. This shortage has then put a spotlight on the difficulties in transitioning to green energy.

Between the pandemic and the heatwave, many Californians are spending most of their time indoors with the air conditioning cranked up. This increased usage is putting tremendous pressure on the state’s power grid. On Monday, the situation prompted the California Independent System Operator (ISO), the state’s primary power supplier, to warn that millions of residents could lose power over the coming days.

Conservation Measures

The state quickly introduced conservation measures in response to the situation, and it managed to avoid widespread blackouts. On Tuesday, the ISO announced “we did it” on Twitter and lifted its emergency declaration. High wind energy production and conservation efforts provided enough power for the state to keep the lights on. However, another Flex Alert was put in place on Wednesday as the state’s 100-degree-plus heatwave continues.

The unfolding power crisis highlights the shortfalls of California’s green energy initiative, but it’s no surprise for California Republicans. GOP Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno is the vice-chair of the state’s Committee on Utilities and Energy. He says the states move away from cheap and efficient natural gas. This is one of the route causes of the fiasco. “I have been warning over and over again that the policies coming out of the Democrat-controlled legislature and governors' office are creating the conditions for blackouts and brownouts and here we are seeing the evidence,” Patterson said in an interview with local Fox News affiliates.

As far back as last September, officials at an ISO board meeting already released a warning. The board said the state could run into electricity shortages. They may happen if a heatwave occurs during the state’s vulnerable transition to less-reliable green energy sources. Such energy sources include wind and solar. A large portion of California’s power supply comes from large solar farms. However, ISO Vice President of Market Quality and State Regulatory Affairs Mark Rothleder says energy demand typically peaks at 5 p.m. when the workday ends. That’s right around sunset, so the solar power supply starts to diminish around the same time. Sometimes, California can make up for power shortages by importing electricity from other states. Although, that’s no easy task with a heatwave sweeping through the region.

Green Energy Transition Difficulties

Renewable Energy Development in the California Desert
The emergency outages demonstrate the difficulties associated with a full-scale transition to renewable energy. California has some of the most ambitious green energy initiatives in the country. Also, the state has shunned nuclear power and natural gas in order to meet its predetermined benchmarks. Unfortunately, this well-intended push towards green energy has opened the state up to supply issues. Thes problems stem from the state's growing dependence on these less-reliable power sources. Therefore, preventing service interruptions can be challenging at times.

Coal and gas-powered energy are falling out of favor all over the country, but these types of power sources can easily produce steady streams of energy and operators can easily increase their output when needed. Renewable sources, like wind and solar, don’t have the same capabilities because they rely on natural forces to drive power production.

Several other states with green energy programs are watching California closely to see how they handle their issues. Todd Snitchler, Chief Executive of the Electric Power Association, told the Wall Street Journal, “California, in many ways, is the canary in the coal mine… Many of the natural-gas units that some in California would like to see go away have been exactly what’s needed to keep the system operating.”

So far, California has avoided instituting rolling blackouts, but they’re not out of woods just yet. A triple-digit heatwave continues to pummel the state, and its power supply issues aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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  • Joan says:

    Sucks to be them. Other states are going through the same pandemic problems. Don’t see them whining. Buck up buttercup and deal with it. Turn off your air conditioning, turn on fans. Close your house up by noon to keep cool air in. It’s been in the 90s and 100 degrees here also.

  • Iron Butterfly says:

    Might have been easier and faster to make the transition if the state and national legislatures weren’t largely bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industries. Look t the number of tax dollars our state and national elected officials siphon out of our pockets (and look at the tax breaks they give to coal and oil investors) to keep fossil fuels “competitive”. The tax breaks allowed to individual homeowners to install solar are absolutely miniscule by comparison, and subject to revocation each time they’re set to expire. The national subsidies and availability of tax breaks of coal and oil never expire.If legacy fuels weren’t so heavily subsidized (very quietly,of course) by tax dollars and if the legacy fuels industry weren’t allowed to bind their competition with mountains of of red tape, we’d be seeing a much more robust green energy infrastructure by now and these sorts of problems would be far smaller in scale. But then the old school energy supporters wouldn’t have much to jeer at, so I guess that would be a huge problem.

    In our area, solar is available – but only at an artificially inflated cost deliberately imposed by our PUC in order to keep people on legacy energy or force them to purchase power (at a premium for the privilege) from the solar and wind farms owned by the state utility company. It’s an illegal scam blatantly designed to suppress alternative energy and individual energy efficiency. Sadly, nobody has the money to find attorneys willing to fight the problem because the entire state government supports the scheme. So to blame green energy for Cali’s woes is disingenuous at best. Look more deeply to see how the massively powerful legacy energy industry and corrupt politicians fought and ultimately botched the green energy revolution, in order to make cleaner energy fail.

    A good acquaintance of ours manufactures and installs industrial scale solar energy systems all over the world, has a huge manufacturing plant here in the States, and has been doing brisk business globally for the past several years – except in the U.S. Government here is NOT interested, thank you! When a major global manufacturer of commercial solar can’t find sufficient business within the U.S. because of unfavorable tax, financing and land use issues, the problem isn’t that green energy isn’t viable. It’s because the powers that control the purse strings don’t WANT it so be viable. But the useful idiots who think the coal, oil and nuclear industries are their friends, will jump on board the fossil fuel bandwagon because they don’t bother to inquire who’s creating their opinions and manufacturing their “facts” for them.

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