California Power Grid Risks Collapse


High power electricity poles in urban area | Image by urbans/Shutterstock

California’s power grid may be approaching collapse amid a shift away from fossil fuels.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the beginning of “aggressive” reforms in September of 2022, aiming to cut the state’s reliance on oil by 91% and achieve 90% clean energy by 2035.

Newsom tweeted on February 7, admonishing major oil companies and their profits, saying, “Time for change.”

The state’s tottering power grid is still primarily run on fossil fuels and nonrenewable sources of energy. 

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) said in its December report that California features a high risk of energy shortfalls during peak conditions and an elevated risk of shortfalls in extreme conditions, particularly summer, due to increased demand, according to Fox News.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), California also ranks as the top importer of electricity — accounting for some 20% to 30% of its total energy supply. This imported energy also comes mostly from fossil fuels, according to Fox News. 

The California Energy Commission’s 2021 Total System Electric Generation report indicated that over 66% of the state’s energy is sourced back to nonrenewable sources, with just under 38% of the total generation attributed to fossil fuels. The same report detailed that renewable energy sources only totaled just over 33% of energy production, with solar accounting for 14% and wind for 11%. 

Edward Ring, a co-founder of the California Policy Center, told Fox News that this order has already created instability for the state’s power grid and conditions will continue to worsen. 

“They’re going to have to build an outrageous amount of wind and solar in a very short time if they want to accomplish their objectives of electrifying — our whole transportation sector and our whole home heating and cooling and residential sector,” said Ring, according to Fox News.

Ring said the shift would create a heavy consumer burden, even if blackouts can be avoided.

A heat wave in the summer of 2022 across the state brought its system close to collapse, according to Politico.

A similar shift in energy policies has also been suggested as a defining factor in the energy crisis in Europe last year.

Myron Ebell, the director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, told Fox News that the state would also begin telling citizens to switch off gas-powered appliances and forcibly switch them to electric ones. Moreover, he said that the decommissioning of electric vehicles and the intermittent nature of solar and wind would only add to the instability.

“The only way the electrification of the transportation sector and of home heating and cooling can work is if the utility sector continues to build natural gas fired plants and looks to building nuclear plants and perhaps building new coal plants because the grid in these states that are pushing these policies is already overloaded,” argued Ebell, per Fox News.

The Dallas Express reached out to the California Energy Commission for comment but did not receive a response by the publication deadline.

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