Green Energy Failed Leaving Millions in California Blackout

Mish

California cannot meet air conditioning demand. The root cause goes beyond the heat wave.

Self Inflicted Blackout

Electrical companies imposed rolling blackouts for the first time since 2001.

Yes, there is a huge heat wave. But inability to meet the surge in demand is due to a shift from natural gas.

Please consider Millions of Californians Seen Going Dark as Heat Tests Grid.

As many as 3 million people across California may take turns being plunged into darkness on Monday evening as the state’s grid operator works to keep the region’s power system from collapsing under the strain of one of the worst heat waves in generations.

The outages, which were expected to hit at 6 p.m. in California, would mark the third time in four days that the state’s utilities deliberately cut power to protect a grid that’s been pushed to the brink of failure as people blast their air conditioners and fans to keep cool. The state is facing an electricity shortfall on Monday of about 1.4 gigawatts, the California Independent System Operator said in a statement.

Since Friday, millions of Californians have been abruptly plunged into darkness with little notice, reminiscent of the mass blackouts that the state’s utilities carried out less than a year ago to keep their electrical lines from sparking fires during unusually strong windstorms.

Part of the problem is California’s rapid shift away from natural gas. About 9 gigawatts of gas generation, enough to power 6.8 million homes, have been retired over the past five years as the state turns increasingly to renewables, according to BloombergNEF. That leaves fewer options when the sun sets and solar production wanes.

Normally, California can import enough power from neighboring states when supplies are tight. But the sprawling heat wave blanketing the U.S. West is pushing power plants to the hilt across the region.

Part of the Problem or Most of It?

Heat wave aside, blame for the blackouts goes squarely on the inane push for more expensive renewable energy forms that cannot meet demand.

Even when California can buy from other states to meet excess demand, that is at additional cost.

Not only do renewables cost more, they are not as reliable. One cannot produce wind on demand.

California-Style Solution

California can raise taxes enough so that enough people flee to reduce electrical demand. 

As noted earlier California Seeks Wealth Tax to Soak the Rich, Even Those Leaving.

The obvious problem with the wealth tax is lack of sufficient billionaires. Not enough would leave to put any dent in demand for electricity.

California should raise taxes so high on everyone that 30% of the people leave. Unfortunately, the 30% who would leave likely pay at least 70% of the taxes.

But hey, it would reduce A/C demand by at least a third.

Mish

Comments (54)
No. 1-26
PecuniaNonOlet
PecuniaNonOlet

75 days till election.

shamrock
shamrock

Yeah, they said they would have been fine but one plant went off line and the wind unexpectedly died down at another location.

hunneric
hunneric

The center of the Tech world and still industrial strength stupid!!

njbr
njbr

Excess capacity has been eliminated to the point where a single failure leads to black-outs.

No one wants to build or to pay to maintain a plant that gets used one or twice a year.

Deregulation and free-market, you know.

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett

Bring Back 1980s style California Smog!

signed,

Someone envious of perfect weather

Sechel
Sechel

I blame planning more than green energy on this one. I think we're at the crux where battery solutions will come on line to help.
I'm not up on California's energy sourcing but I'm kind of surprised that natural gas would be the first carbon solution to be retired. I would have expected coal to go first and oil to go second. Natural gas is relatively clean

Sechel
Sechel

@Mish Editor
You may be wrong about this one Mish. Yes we'e dealing with a six sigma heat wave but the issue is not so much about power generation as it is with transformers and distribution stations. Sounds like an electric grid issue? Love to hear your comments on this. Regardless I think the problem is more complex than simply about a shift away from older natural gas plants.

California battles what some experts are calling historic weather conditions. Nearly 45 million people across the West are under an excessive heat warning or heat advisory Wednesday. High temperatures, gusty winds and low humidity are forecast, conditions that will likely contribute to a significant spread of both new and existing wildfires.

LADWP, the nation’s largest municipal utility with a total of 1.5 million customers in the City of Los Angeles, said approximately 12,000 of those customers were in the dark Tuesday night.

“The outages that we’re experiencing tonight are related to strained equipment in the field, transformers and distributing stations that become overheated which has led to many localized outages,” an LADWP spokesperson said. “Our crews are out there and will make progress overnight.”

As California ISO began taking its emergency actions on Saturday, electricity wholesale costs jumped on its energy market. The prices fluctuate based on how much electricity must pass through the wires. The more electricity that must get through a particular line, the higher the price, much like increased toll prices on a highway during traffic congestion.
     Prices in locations near the Tahoe area across the state line to Reno and Carson City, Nev., spiked into the thousands of dollars per megawatt-hour, far above the typical costs of under $100.
     Ms. Gonzales said the electric grid manager did not have an immediate response to questions about the energy prices because officials were responding to the emergency.
     "But the ISO isn't saying it's congestion," said Loretta Lynch, a former president of the California Public Utilities Commission. "They're not saying a wire got burned down. It's saying it's a lack of power."

Aug. 17 (New York Times) -- Managers of the electric system argue that a lack of power prompted the decision to enact blackouts, though demand this weekend fell short of the state's peak years.
      As temperatures began to rise in California on Friday and again on Saturday, the manager of much of the state's electric grid called on utilities to cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers. 
     But the rolling blackouts on those days left some of the state's energy experts bewildered. They said that the utilities had plenty of power available and that the blackouts weren't necessary. The grid's capacity may be tested in coming days as temperatures are forecast to reach into the triple digits again in some places.

 "They set it up like this is a historic event," said Bill Powers, a San Diego engineer who

provides expert testimony on utility matters before the state's regulators. "This should not have triggered blackouts."

Zardoz
Zardoz

No actual outages yet.

...or to paraphrase Smashing Pumpkins:

Despite all the rage
there has been no powere outage

Six000mileyear
Six000mileyear

The article does a poor job explaining the technical problem. On the one hand there are indisputable facts that generation capacity in California has decreased. On the other hand, there is the potential of sparking by power lines. There is actually a domino effect. Local power generation cannot meet local demand, so power is imported from other states. Power line sparking occurs when more current is imported than the high voltage power lines are capable of handling. So the TWO problems are not enough local power generation, AND not enough line capacity when importing electric power. Even if local power generation were increase, local lines may not be able to handle the loads. The best thing would be for California to decentralize its power generation within the state to meet the electrical limits of power lines. Importing power should be a last resort.

Ted R
Ted R

Those of us in the coal and natural gas industry have known this was going to happen for a long time.. And now it has. California has no one to blame for its electricity problems but themselves. Green energy is a long way from replacing coal and natural gas for electricity production. It will probably happen one day but that day is years away.

PecuniaNonOlet
PecuniaNonOlet

I love this community, no matter what the problem is we have a crack team of experts here commenting on everything: energy, virology, economic systems, finance, banking, espionage, tax policy, real estate, gold, post office, and more. The best though is when commentors post cause and effect opinions with little or no evidence because why muddle issues with facts.

Keep it going guys....

WildBull
WildBull

Nothing to make business flee like unreliable utilities. Dumb ass socialists always destroy everything they touch.

Roto1711
Roto1711

Vote in Biben/Harris and enjoy power outages nation wide!

frozeninthenorth
frozeninthenorth

Mish this is sloppy news, I'm sorry but there are a number of reasons why all this is happening, there is no doubt that shutting down NG power plant is stupid -- assuming that this is actually what is happening. The sector is complex, to put it mildly.

showing a graph of the number of power plants "being shut" tell you literally nothing about the California energy complex. if they've shut down 2.5 MW -- but have 500,000 in total...

There are issues -- when utilities are sued (and bankrupted) for starting bush fires because electricity and dry vegetation don't mix.

There is always an expectative that enough power will be available, whenever it is required.

Do the work get the real explanation, and then pass judgment -- got to tell you that retiring 15,000MW over 10 years is hardly news or serious. Power plants have to be retired...and replaced by other things. You said it yourself "Record-breaking heat wave" Utility have to plan for the peak demand -- sometimes, especially when you are looking at new records its hard to do...

Blaming green energy is plain stupid -- you could be right, but you could be wrong to, but there's no way of knowing either way from what you wrote.

BTW NG is still about 50% of all California's electricity generation something like 90,000 GWh

KidHorn
KidHorn

Seems nuclear is the best option going forward. No carbon emission and reliable at all times. There have been a few disasters, but they're few and far between. And there have been a lot of technological breakthroughs since the 60's and 70's when almost all the current ones were built. They can make them a lot safer now.

But the environmentalists are all against it for some reason. Somehow covering the planet with solar panels and wind turbines is better.

BLUEWIN
BLUEWIN

Where is the Cold Fusion when you need it . . .

Mr. Purple
Mr. Purple

"Electrical companies imposed rolling blackouts for the first time since 2001."

While technically true, we now know that the 2001 blackouts were caused by the Enron scandal and were 100% man-made.

It is more truthful to say that the 2020 blackouts are the first in California history from natural market forces.

Zardoz
Zardoz

Any actual blackouts yet? Are we still outraged?

Sechel
Sechel

I think this story is more complex than some hot days and a reduction in natural gas powered plants. Yea not the best write up. A diagnosis is search of an illness

Sechel
Sechel

In recent days, California has struggled to supply power in part because it relies heavily on imports from other Western states that are also experiencing higher demand during the heat wave. Its reliance on natural-gas plants that can produce power at peak times has increased, but still fell short of demand several times.

Jojo
Jojo

The Sierra Club is currently writing:

"The DNC quietly dropped ending fossil fuel subsidies in its final party platform. This is completely off base, and the Sierra Club is standing strong in opposition to this decision".

They go on and are quite upset with the DNC. Dems don't want to lose the Greens.

Jojo
Jojo

Then we have a building snowball of cities banning use of natural gas in new construction despite the fact that electricity is MUCH more expensive, especially when it comes to heating. But then with global warming, we may not need to worry about the winter chill here in CA going forward, no?

California's Cities Lead the Way to a Gas-Free Future
By Matt Gough July 24, 2020

nzyank
nzyank

Mish - this is not a failure of green energy. I think you are jumping to conclusions without doing basic research. Californians should be proud of their state's long term commitment to renewable energy, and ignore those that want to see this commitment fail.

Solar is a great long term solution for California, particularly with climate change trends - the peak is caused by increased air conditioning demand in the summer afternoons. This is when solar production would be at its peak as well, so storage is less of a factor, though still important.

For more see here: https://calmatters.org/environment/2020/08/california-2020-rolling-blackouts-explainer/

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

We got globalization to blame for it. The planet is quickly on its way to burning in the same way the cataclysmic floods took out continents. There is really nothing we can do to escape the inevitable now. The turning point was decades ago. In the chase for constant economic growth there is a price to pay.

baldfoot
baldfoot

Why is it generally held that this issue is a negative? What better way for the ecosystem to equalize all that excess grey matter with the conditions of the day. If it becomes the "new norm" people will leave and/or expire until a new balance is achieved. Yall can move all the pieces around all you want, but it wont matter. We are collectively in serious overreach, something more technology cannot solve since it is at the heart of our collective demise. Gonna have to stop snorting lithium.

ruth14
ruth14

Interesting read. I don't think most people would disagree that switching to more "Green" forms of energy is without its challenges. I also don't think most people would disagree that ice turns to water when it melts. Since the Industrial Revolution, humanity has been pumping out tons of heat-trapping emissions into the atmosphere through the use of fossil fuels, which has led to the increase in temperature of the planet and the widespread melting of many ice caps. Several places around the world are now vulnerable to rising sea levels, including the Republic of Maldives, home to over 500,000 people. People in California shouldn't be worried about "being plunged into darkness". They should be worried about being plunged into the ocean. https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/


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