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With grid on verge of collapse, CA Gov. Newsom declares state of emergency

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Nuclear Power Policy Activist Independent

I am a passionate advocate for the environment and nuclear energy. With the threat of climate change, I’ve embarked on a mission to help overcome the fears of nuclear energy. I’ve been active in...

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  • Aug 2, 2021

After nine years of:

• trying to run the world's fifth-largest economy on bits and pieces of renewable energy;
• driving up electricity rates 5x faster than the national average;
• believing renewable energy certificates can magically time-shift renewable electricity to when it's needed;
• paying other states to take it when it isn't;
• becoming increasingly reliant on imported gas and coal generation;
• stuffing Aliso Canyon Reservoir with enough backup gas to rupture a feeder pipe, resulting in the worst greenhouse gas leak in U.S. history;
• forcing consumers to pay solar and windfarms to generate electricity when it's needed, and to not generate it when it isn't -

California Governor Gavin Newsom finally lost it.

On Friday, his office released "PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY" - an 11-page list of frantic orders directed to state agencies with the intent of keeping California's electrical grid from coming apart at the seams. The proclamation, released at the end of a weekly news cycle to avoid publicity, begins with no less than 24 paragraphs pinning blame for his state's dire predicament on the weather, the effects of climate change, the drought, mudslides, wildfires, insufficient time to build enough solar/wind/battery farms, and on "rapid, unforeseen, sudden, and severe energy shortages" - anyone and anything but his own failed policies.

Newsom's prescription for resolving the crisis orders utilities to pay customers $2 per kilowatthour not to use electricity - ten times the rate they pay to use it. He removes all restrictions on dumping hot water from power plants, use of personal generators, how much electricity a power plant can generate (including California's one remaining coal plant), and how much fuel it can use. In other words: he throws the environment under the bus to cover for his administration's poor planning.


Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Aug 2, 2021

I'm having trouble connecting the dots with the $2/kWh DR payments. How would these load reductions be verified to ensure that people aren't gaming the system?

Economic approaches to ensure resource adequacy and resilience, simply cannot ensure reliability of the electric grid.

Grid reliability and resilience is first and foremost a technical/engineering problem to solve. Any State that does not recognize this fact and tries to achieve reliability purely through economic methods will fail, just like Texas did during winter storm URI.

First, solve the technical problems to achieve reliability and resilience of the electric grid, then craft en economic method on this design to achieve the most reasonable consumer cost for reliable electric service.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 2, 2021

"I'm having trouble connecting the dots with the $2/kWh DR payments."

You and me both, Richard. The $2/kWh payments were an order to utilities by the governor, btw - likely, in an irrational moment of despair. Requests from PG&E's 16 million customers for one day of reduced consumption could easily drive the company into bankruptcy. They make no sense, will be ignored, and will only hurt Newsom's standing when he has none to lose  (CA votes on a gubernatorial recall next month).

California should serve as a cautionary tale for other states, Newsom, for other governors. Because renewables, except for permitting some homeowners to lower their electricity bills, make no sense either.

"Economic approaches to ensure resource adequacy and resilience, simply cannot ensure reliability of the electric grid."

What's a capacity market, but an economic approach to ensure resource adequacy and reliability of the electric grid?

Though your Always On Capacity Exchange (AOCE) is a noble attempt to lower ISONE's carbon footprint by integrating renewables into its grid, it's time to start connecting the dots: it's impossible to ensure reliability of an electric grid when the energy used to generate it is mostly coming from intermittent, unreliable sources.


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 2, 2021

Re: the $2/kWh DR - there's been some clarification this morning:

  • Only available to large industrial customers
  • They must sign up ahead-of-time to qualify

An acquaintance who tracks CAISO activity with professional tools tells me the proclamation was issued after a system-wide outage was narrowly averted on Thursday afternoon. 17 GW of capacity was down for maintenance, as a result of fuel (natural gas) constraints, or was curtailed.

The professional tools are needed when's "Outlook" page inexplicably goes offline during periods of high, late afternoon consumption.

Patrick McGarry's picture
Patrick McGarry on Aug 3, 2021

As Don King once famously said, "Only in America"

Bob Meinetz's picture
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