California has turned on four gas-powered emergency generators in response to the possibility of rolling blackouts days after a statewide system emergency was declared.
According to KMPH, the Department of Water Resources in Roseville and Yuba City received instructions from the California Independent System Operator to activate its emergency-only generators, which were installed in 2021. These generators can supply the system with about 120 megawatts of natural gas-burning energy, which is sufficient to power 120,000 houses in a state with a population of more than 39.2 million.
In particular right now, when citizens are staying indoors and cranking up their air conditioning due to a heat wave, California’s electrical grid is under a great deal of stress.
The ISO threatened “rotating outages” on Monday unless users cut their energy consumption even further than they have already.
Rotating outages would not be unprecedented in recent years. In August 2020, the grid operator in California started rationing power and selectively shutting off the lights, affecting 800,000 homes and businesses. The disruptions persisted for periods of 15 minutes to hours. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, later admitted fault, saying, “We failed to plan ahead and prepare for these shortages, and that’s simply unacceptable.”
Even now, two years later, and with the Newsom administration’s goal of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2045, there are still shortages.
“We need a reduction in our energy use that is two or three times larger than what we’ve witnessed so far as this historic heat wave keeps increasing,” said Elliot Manzer, president and CEO of the ISO, on September 5. Manzer added that “energy deficits” of up to 10% of normal energy demands may soon be sufficient to knock out up to 3 million households.
The ISO restated its recommendation from the previous week that residents pre-cool their residences and run their large appliances during the daytime when solar energy is plentiful. The ISO urged Californians to “set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using major appliances and recharging electric cars, and shut off unnecessary lights” before the Labor Day holiday weekend.
40.5% of California’s energy is produced by solar energy, 11.5% by wind energy, 11.1% by hydroelectricity, 0.1% by coal, 10.5% by nuclear energy, and 32% by natural gas.
California has been forced to use gas-powered generators as well since so-called renewable energy is proving unreliable (for example, hydroelectric generating has been negatively impacted by low water levels).
Despite supplying 5% of the state’s electricity, Newsom this week signed a bill to lend $1.4 billion to California’s final nuclear power plant, which was earlier slated for closure. As the State quickens the transition to clean energy, Newsom stressed the necessity to ensure “energy reliability.”
Despite obstacles including blackouts and electricity rationing, the state wants to replace all gas-powered cars with electric ones in addition to moving away from nuclear and natural gas generation. Some others question if the grid will be able to support the load of 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025 or 5 million by 2030, just as it is already ill-equipped to handle current demands.