Spurred by a record heatwave covering most of the state this week and state electrical resources pushed to the point that brownouts in some areas are inevitable, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he signed an Executive Order to ramp up electrical resources across the state in preparation for the increased need, as well as declaring a State of Emergency.
“California and the West are expecting extreme heat that is likely to strain the grid with increased energy demands, especially over the holiday weekend,” said the California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) in a statement.
For his first few years as Governor, Newsom pushed for numerous green initiatives across the state, including making the electrical grid more dependent on green energy and meeting a statewide carbon-free goal by 2045 by, among other things, gradually cutting back oil and coal plants in favor of wind, solar, and other means. However, as an energy crunch has become apparent with green energy construction falling way off pace of fossil fuel plant closures and other energy sources planned on being phased out, Newsom has done a u-turn on many policies.
This has included temporarily removing environmental-laws during times of high energy usage as well as reversing course on the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and now announcing he is in favor of its extension due to it proving 9% of California’s energy, as well as acknowledging that it is green energy. His turnaround continued on Wednesday with more measures temporarily added to help California through the heat wave.
According to the Executive Order, waste discharge limits in thermal power plants are to be suspended from August 31st to September 7th, with air quality limits and fuel restrictions for plants also suspended. Emergency generators are also to come online when needed, including personal portable generators, with all laws and regulations of use around them having been suspended for the week. In addition, all ships docked in California ports are to use power generated on the ship rather than offshore hookups.
“There was a challenging period in August 2020 when we had rolling blackouts,” said Governor Newsom on Wednesday. “We had some short-term challenges. We had a few minutes where we had to make difficult decisions, and it required us to think completely differently. However state actions since then have put an estimated 4,000 megawatts on the grid that were not available back then. We’ve headed these issues off last year. I’m confident we’ll do it again this year.”
“This is just the latest reminder of how real the climate crisis is, and how it is impacting the everyday lives of Californians. While we are taking steps to get us through the immediate crisis, this reinforces the need for urgent action to end our dependence on fossil fuels that are destroying our climate and making these heat waves hotter and more common.”
Executive Order temporarily rolls back earlier Newsom laws, regulations
While Newsom’s Executive Order actions have been deemed as necessary by most lawmakers and environmental regulators in the state, many have questioned Newsom for going against his earlier environmental policies, as well as not doing enough to stave off brown outs, as Cal ISO will likely come up 3,000 megawatts short, or electricity for roughly 2 million homes, during much of the next week.
“What Gov. Newsom told the people of California today and the actual realities that will play out this weekend are so far apart that we have to ask, why he is failing to share the truth with us all?” asked Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) on Wednesday in response to the Executive Order.
“Labor Day weekend is going to be the holiday that Californians wake up to the reality that the ruling party in the state of California has created an electricity grid that is increasingly unreliable, without the necessary supply to meet the demand. A grid that is increasingly costly for those who can least afford it.”
Environmental watchdog group leader Heather Barnes added, “Newsom is going right back against what he had promoted in the first place. He originally wanted more environmental regulations, but now, when faced with some hardship based on those very same policies he made, he rolls back on them, even if only for a short time. He is partially responsible for getting the state to this point in the first place, now he approved this order to undue some of that damage It’s crazy. He demonized fossil fuels so much and praised environmental regulations. Now look what he needs to stave off disaster: getting rid of those regulations and giving fossil fuel plants more leeway for electricity generation.”
“We should be happy that he wants to take a few steps back on some of this, but he’s only doing it for an emergency and to save his own skin. He’s looking for a presidential run, right? Well, let’s just say that the state going dark because he went too far on his own policies would not play well during the primaries.”
The temporary measures are to end on September 7th, around the time the heat wave is expected to recede. It is unknown if Newsom would pass an extension if needed if the heat wave becomes more prolonged.