The California Energy Commission (CEC) announced on Thursday that the state will likely not see power shortages this summer due to a combination of new energy sources and enough rainfall to run hydroelectric plants at full capacity.
For the last several years, high temperatures, drought conditions, and a growing reliance on the electrical grid for things such as air-conditioning during these times have caused numerous blackouts and brownouts across the state. This included August 2020 grid shutdowns in many parts of the state lasting intermittingly for a few days, as well as extremely strained systems in 2021 and 2022. Text messages from the state advising residents to use less electricity until the evening were also sent several times due to the massive strains, with a massive blackout being averted in September of last year as a result.
At the same time, there were issues with power plants across the state, with green energy plants not keeping pace with fossil fuel plant shutdowns, hydroelectric plants not generating power anymore due to low reservoir levels, and the state’s lone nuclear plant looking like it would be removed from the system. Not helping matters were several wildfires, which also stopped electricity in some areas in an attempt to mitigate the sparking of any new ones.
However, according to the CEC, California is in good shape for 2023. Diablo Canyon is set to stay online for many years to come due to a last minute extension, fossil fuel plant removals have slowed down, green energy plants saw an upswing of more coming on line following a logjam of construction post-COVID, and reservoirs have been topped out, ensuring that hydroelectric plants, such as the one in Lake Oroville, will continue at full capacity once again.
In addition, according to California Independent System Operator (CAISO) vice president of Transmission Planning & Infrastructure Development Neil Millar, another 8,594 megawatts of power coming from wind, solar, and battery storage power will be made available by September 1st, creating a massive amount to be available during the hotter months of the year.
“I am relieved to say that we are in a much better position than what we were going into 2022,” said Siva Gunda, vice chair of the California Energy Commission, in a statement on Thursday.
However, despite the optimism, many experts warned that the weather later in the year could greatly change things, with more “flex alert” messages possible throughout the year.
“I would say that that folks shouldn’t be surprised to see a flex alert,” said Alice Reynolds, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “I mean, we’re talking about extreme heat, unusual events that are hard to manage.”
Other experts also questioned if green energy could really hold up throughout the year.
“So fossil fuel plants work swimmingly, although they pollute,” explained utility contractor Hector Blanco to the Globe on Thursday. “Nuclear works just fine too, and hydroelectric does as long as there is enough water to generate power.”
“Wind power works, but wind isn’t exactly 100% reliable, even with many being placed in notoriously windy areas. The same goes for solar energy, as some cloudy days could throw a hamper on energy production. But if you’re asking if blackouts are unlikely to occur, well, the CEC is wrong. Those energy plant issues are just one factor, because wildfires, unforeseen line issues, and dozens of other little things can have blackouts return. And that isn’t even getting into if California is scorched again. There’s no guarantee the grid can hold even with extra power coming in. The CEC is overly optimistic.”
A more clearer picture on what temperatures could be like later this year is expected to come soon through revised forecasts.
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