California’s power grids are collapsing as leaders push renewable energy and electric vehicles, experts say
California’s power grid faces years of potential blackouts and outages as state leaders continue to push aggressive policies to transition to renewable energy sources, policy experts tell Fox News Digital.
The state’s power grid, which still runs primarily on fossil fuels, is undergoing a major shift from natural gas and coal to renewables like wind and solar. At the same time, state officials are pushing electrification of the economy, particularly in the transport sector, through electric vehicle regulations, which are expected to increase pressure on the power grid.
“California is dramatically reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and cleaning up our air,” said Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a November announcement unveiling the “world’s first detailed path to carbon neutrality.”
The state’s plan calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 85%, cutting oil use by 94%, and deploying more solar and wind capacity over the next two decades. The aggressive plan to overhaul the state’s power system came three months after a top California environmental agency passed a rule requiring all new car sales to be electric by 2035.
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In 2021, the most recent year with data, wind and solar accounted for about 25% of all electricity generated in California, while natural gas accounted for more than 50% of state electricity generation. And 19% of new car sales in California were zero-emission vehicles, state data showed.
Experts told Fox News Digital that the environmental mandates being implemented by Newsom and his government have already caused grid instability, a problem they argued would only get worse if existing fossil-fuel power generation capacity was taken offline and would be replaced by intermittent sources.
“They’re going to need to build up an unprecedented amount of wind and solar power in a very short period of time if they’re to achieve their goals of electrification — our entire transportation sector and our entire home heating and cooling and residential sector,” said Edward Ring. a senior fellow and co-founder of the California Policy Center, Fox News Digital said in an interview.
“There is a burden on the consumer that is going to be very heavy,” he continued. “Even if they can pull it off without a blackout, the burden on the consumer will be ridiculous.”
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Over the summer, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the state’s electric grid operator, repeatedly warned that high demand would severely impact utility providers’ ability to serve consumers amid a heat wave.
CAISO issued an “Energy Emergency Alert 3,” its highest alert level, in early September, saying residents should maximize energy conservation and expect rotating outages and a flex alert for more than seven consecutive days. The operator also recommended that local residents refrain from charging electric vehicles in order to reduce the load on the electricity grid.
“They’re already suffering,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and the Environment.
“They’re actually telling people that they’re going to start turning off natural gas for homes and they need to switch to electricity,” he told Fox News Digital. “Then they will force people to buy electric vehicles and they will stop selling internal combustion engine vehicles. That will increase demand from the power grid.”
In its annual report released in December, North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a nonpartisan grid watchdog, said California faces a “high risk of energy or capacity shortages” in the coming years, particularly during the summer months, due to traditional power plant shutdowns and increased demand .
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Ebell added that the intermittent nature of sun and wind, meaning they produce less electricity relative to their total generating capacity, could lead to instability. Green energy developers and government officials often emphasize the total capacity of new renewable energy projects, but fail to mention how much actual energy the project is expected to produce.
For example, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), solar panels generate only 25% and wind turbines 34% of their declared capacity. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants now produce 49%, 54%, and 93% of their listed capacity, respectively.
“Electrification of the transportation sector and home heating and cooling can only work if the utility sector keeps building natural gas-fired power plants and is looking to build nuclear power plants and maybe build new coal-fired power plants because the power grid in those states that is pushing that policy forward is already overloaded,” Ebell continued.
“As everyone is transitioning to electric vehicles, the only way to do that is to find more baseload power and on-demand power.”
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According to the California Energy Commission, the total capacity of the state’s natural gas-fired power plants fell by 15% between 2013 and 2021. In April, Newsom was forced to reverse plans to shut down California’s only remaining nuclear power plant, which alone produces 9% of the state’s electricity generation.
California also imports more electricity than any other U.S. state and gets between 20% and 30% of its supplies mostly from out-of-state fossil fuels, EIA data shows.
Another potential roadblock to California’s future grid resilience is the need for new transmission line infrastructure to handle the additional demand and to connect new renewable energy projects, often located in rural regions, to the grid, said Steven Malanga, senior fellow at Manhattan Institute, Fox News Digital said. He also argued that executives should place more emphasis on battery storage, which is far from where it needs to be.
“These are huge costs that have not been fairly calculated by the renewable energy people,” Malanga said in an interview. “Essentially, we have this power grid that has been built over decades, and in order to transition to renewables, you not only have to build renewables like wind farms and solar farms, you also have to build new transmission lines.”
“More importantly, you need to build storage capacity,” he continued. “In a lot of places like California, they’re not even backing renewables with natural gas, which really the sanest people, the utilities, are saying you have to do because renewables are intermittent.”
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The Department of Energy estimated last year that the US would need to expand its transmission infrastructure by 60% by 2030 and triple its size by 2050 to meet climate targets.
At the current rate, it would take an estimated 282 years to triple the country’s transmission capacity, according to an independent analysis by energy researcher Robert Bryce. As with other energy projects and infrastructure developments, transmission lines often face delays from environmental regulations and local opposition.
“You have to get that energy into the cities, which are the big consumers of electricity,” Malanga told Fox News Digital. “So you have to rebuild all the transmission lines. Transmission lines are not only expensive to build, but are also subject to stringent environmental regulations. Approving them takes years.”
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“It takes ten years to get permits to build some of these transmission lines, and that’s just one generation,” he added. “Some of these places have renewable goals that are 2035, 2040, and 2045. That’s not that far in the future when you’re talking about building a whole new energy infrastructure, which is basically what we’re talking about in California.”
“The truth is that in many places we have seen the energy grid already dangerously close to collapse because we are not paying enough attention to sustaining the grid. This will lead to power outages. And we’ve already seen that. The stories are tragic.”
https://www.foxnews.com/politics/californias-grid-faces-collapse-leaders-push-renewables-electric-vehicles-experts-say California’s power grids are collapsing as leaders push renewable energy and electric vehicles, experts say