The California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) announced on Thursday that the state will be temporarily expanding natural gas power by adding new power plants due to energy supply concerns.
According to the CDWR, five new gas powered generators will be temporarily installed in existing power plants. Each generator will produce up to 30 megawatts each, for a grand total of 150 megawatts at full capacity, enough to power roughly 25,000 homes. All 5 generators are expected to be online around mid-September.
Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Marysville) commented on Twitter about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s emergency proclamation:
“Desperate to avoid blackouts caused by his own mismanagement, Newsom turns to the same natural gas plants he has vilified. How many ways can you spell hypocrisy?
Desperate to avoid blackouts caused by his own mismanagement, Newsom turns to the same natural gas plants he has vilified. How many ways can you spell hypocrisy? pic.twitter.com/HWnGuewCwg
— James Gallagher (@J_GallagherAD3) August 20, 2021
The addition of several new gas-powered plants had been more and more expected in the last several months. Rolling blackouts in high energy use months in 2020 caused by energy limitations, the first in twenty years, signaled the need of more electrical resources in 2021. However, due to green energy plants not being added fast enough, the closure of more fossil fuel plants, and hydroelectric dams starting to go offline due to not enough water being in reservoirs to generate electricity, the state saw that an energy shortage was coming.
Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency over the power grid. In addition to ordering solar, wind, and other green power plants currently being planned and built to be expedited, he also temporarily removed many air quality rules, hinting at allowing more fossil fuel powered plants to be expanded on.
The 2020 blackouts should have been a wakeup call for Newsom. But to no one’s surprise, it was biz as usual in CA. Now he’s in complete panic mode trying to keep the lights on. https://t.co/Gp4FLprByY
— James Gallagher (@J_GallagherAD3) August 20, 2021
Despite opposition from environmental groups, Californian regulator groups quickly moved into action after finding out that that state may be short by as much as 3,500 megawatts during peak energy times for the rest of the year. While freed up energy resources and conservation measures would take care of much of that gap, it was clear that more energy would need to be produced. The CDWR soon had the generator idea and was backed up by the California Energy Commission (CEC), who approved licenses for temporary gas generators for up to five years on Tuesday.
“Governor Newsom’s emergency proclamation makes it very clear that all of our energy agencies have to act immediately to achieve energy stability during this emergency as well as accelerating plans for construction, procurement and rapid deployment of new clean-energy and storage projects,” explained CEC Commissioner Karen Douglas on Tuesday.
With the additional generators approved, the CDWR acted fast to approve the temporary gas generators on Thursday.
Condemnation, praise over the gas-powered generator additions
Environmentalists and many others denounced the plan on Thursday and Friday, saying that the state is starting to turn back on their goal to have 100% clean energy by 2045.
“They’re going to use this energy shortfall to push back that date and bring back gas plants,” said Corey Martin, an environmental protest leader in Los Angeles, to the Globe on Friday. This is if you give a mouse a cookie. We’ll be watching very closely if they start extending more gas plants from their closure dates, start putting in more generators, and other things, because it’s pretty obvious that they are looking that way more and more.
“We need to start protecting this planet now. They just had that report last week showing that we likely already passed that irreversible threshold on destructive climate change. We allow these gas plants to continue coming back, the worse it will be.”
However, many lawmakers, citizens groups, and cities facing rolling blackouts applauded the move, with many pointing out that the generator additions have shown that California cannot be energy stable right now with their current levels of renewable and non-renewable energy.
“Californians are fed up with having to worry about blackouts,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) said on Friday. “This state has done everything in its power to outlaw natural gas. This is an outright admission that they cannot keep the lights on without it.”
Others simply noted the necessity of it.
“California needs this to stave off blackouts which could negatively hurt hundreds of thousands of people. This helps alleviate that, pure and simple,” Andrea Carson, a utility planner in Southern California, said on Friday.
Other energy plans and power options are expected to be released by the state in the coming weeks.
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