California Faces Summer Blackouts from Climate Extremes

CLIMATEWIRE | For the following 5 summers, excessive warmth and different local weather change impacts will threaten the reliability of California’s electrical grid, state officers stated Friday.

Available electrical energy provides won’t have the ability to sustain with demand if warmth waves hit, droughts make hydropower much less obtainable or wildfires cut back electrical energy transmission, employees of the California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Public Utilities Commission suggested company leaders.

Energy planners worry a mix of these warming impacts additionally arrive on the similar time. CEC Vice Chair Siva Gunda reminded officers Friday that “securing energy reliability is a tremendous responsibility” because the local weather adjustments.

“The responsibility is becoming increasingly difficult to fulfill with the tools we have in hand,” he stated. “Climate-change-induced drought, fire and heat is very difficult to predict.”

State and grid officers earlier this month revealed that California faces the potential of electrical energy blackouts returning this summer time due to energy provide shortages (Energywire, May 9). That prediction was based mostly on an evaluation of current energy provides, new sources anticipated to return on-line and the potential for excessive occasions. Friday’s presentation was the primary to provide an in-depth have a look at potential gaps between electrical energy provide and peak demand past this coming summer time, with analyses that additionally cowl the summers of 2023 via 2026.

The most precarious window for electrical energy provide shortages is early evenings, after the state’s strong solar energy is not working. September is probably the most doubtlessly problematic month in all the years examined.

The warnings come because the nation’s most populous state seeks extra renewable vitality on its grid, with the intention to have a 100% carbon-free electrical energy provide by 2045.

State officers are additionally making an attempt to keep away from a repeat of August 2020, when energy provide shortages led to rolling blackouts on a Saturday night and some hours the following night time. Power provides remained tight all through that month. Residents and companies reduce consumption, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom licensed the usage of diesel mills and different strikes, and the lights stayed on.

Newsom lately proposed spending $5.2 billion to enhance vitality reliability (Energywire, May 16). But Friday’s presentation confirmed the challenges the Newsom administration will face.

Climate change is altering how vitality and grid officers calculate the state’s electrical energy provide. They used to plan to have sufficient provide to cowl a disaster occasion that might occur as soon as a decade.

After the 2020 rolling blackouts, California authorities now intention for a buffer of energy provide that’s 22.5 % above projected peak demand.

Gunda stated that’s a proxy for excessive occasions that might hit. Energy officers now should account for big fires, he stated, droughts past the historic ranges and demand that is altering due to excessive warmth.

Outages may hit thousands and thousands of properties

Electricity reliability throughout early evenings in September will probably be difficult for the following 5 years, with the state unable to seek out sufficient energy provide sources to offer that 22.5 % buffer, based on Friday’s presentation.

This summer time, the potential hole between vitality demand and provide may hit 3,500 megawatts. That would depart as many as 3.5 million properties with out energy.

Starting subsequent summer time, the state ought to have enough electrical energy provide beneath regular circumstances. But excessive occasions may create a requirement surge and electrical energy provide scarcity, planners stated. In 2023, the facility provide hole in these circumstances is 600 MW. In 2024, it rises once more to 2,700 MW. A yr later, in 2025, the potential shortfall is 3,300 MW.

“There are some large retirements in 2024, and so … there are many more hours of concern across the peak” demand interval, stated Hannah Craig, with the Energy Assessments Division on the California Energy Commission.

She didn’t specify which era sources could be retiring. But the evaluation assumes the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear energy plant run by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The plant’s two reactors are scheduled to shut in 2024 and 2025, although there’s now speak of doubtless retaining the power open for a couple of extra years (Energywire, May 2).

The state’s grid supervisor, the California Independent System Operator (ISO), stated it has inbuilt some contingencies that can present about 2,000 MW of energy to assist preserve the lights on this summer time. Those embrace utilities working with companies to cut back their energy consumption, vitality effectivity upgrades at some vegetation and counting on backup mills.

“But here’s the challenge,” stated Neil Millar, California ISO vice-president of transmission planning and infrastructure improvement. “That 2,000 [MW] is not going to be enough to really be prepared, particularly if we have cumulative” excessive occasions.

For instance, the Bootleg Fire in Oregon final yr made 4,000 MW of imported energy unavailable, he stated. This yr, California might have about 7,000 MW of extra assist and maybe as a lot as 10,000 MW in 2025, Millar stated.

The Newsom administration’s plan for vitality reliability consists of directing the state Department of Water Resources to purchase extra energy provides, reminiscent of backup mills and storage, Millar stated. In addition, the state would preserve some energy vegetation operating that might in any other case be retiring. And California would use energy buy agreements to convey extra assets into the state.

The state would additionally provide incentives for big enterprise clients, or teams of consumers, to chop their electrical energy consumption extra throughout peak demand instances.

Project delays mount

Electric utilities are bringing on new era tasks and trying to convey on much more, based on employees on the California Public Utilities Commission.

“We have thousands and thousands of megawatts under contract,” stated Molly Sterkel, program supervisor of infrastructure planning and allowing on the CPUC. Developers have “entered into these contracts with entities, and they’re working diligently to bring resources online,” she stated.

But they face many obstacles, Sterkel stated.

Those embrace “tremendous inflationary pressures” which might be triggering worth will increase all through undertaking improvement, she stated. She additionally pointed to the Department of Commerce’s evaluate of whether or not Chinese firms are avoiding paying tariffs by funneling their exports via Southeast Asian international locations (Energywire, May 19).

“This has led to a severe disruption in the supply of solar panels into the U.S. market,” Sterkel stated.

There are also “severe manufacturing disruptions in China, in particular for battery equipment, and they were shut down due to Covid,” she stated.

The California Energy Commission’s Gunda emphasised Friday that the grid’s reliability is crucial because the state seeks to take away carbon from its grid — and cleared the path “for the nation and the globe.”

“If we stumble on keeping the lights on, the whole climate agenda is at risk,” he stated.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News offers important information for vitality and setting professionals.

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