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California's blackouts are just preview to what's coming for those who depend on utilities for their supply

image credit: www.simpli.com/California Closts

California is a poster child now a days. Emotions are running high and blame game has started. 

Yesterday utilities blamed regulators in California for not allowing them to secure additional supply. Some argued this is a staged show to save 3 gas power plants slated to be closed and yet some blamed government policies with call for recalling California Governor Gavin Newsom.

But what is the root cause and can this mess be fixed?

Here are my take 

1. Most of the green enthusiast have no formal background in electrical engineering and physical characteristics of the grid.  You can not re-purpose a ship to make a sleek car!

2. Chronic shortage of man power, let aside talented, utilities are far short of man power who can actually work in the field and maintain network. When most of the people spending time on Facebook and tik-tok you can not find people who want to work in the field. 

3. Unbiased assessment of the real value delivered by Solar and wind to the grid and what part of the grid don't have alternatives yet. Right now approach is pump as much solar and wind and we will have clean energy. Pipes that carry them are not designed for that so you are seeing busts.

4. Decouple utility planning from O&M - Utilities should not be the only one who decide what is the need for the system reliability. No utility led planning. Lets accept utilities alone don't know what will happen with complex distributed technologies

5. Decentralize grid - Abolish or limit role of CAL ISO. As distributed energy was taking hold in California, California ISO, so called not for profit went on the consolidate regional operator. We need just opposite of that.

6. Social and behaviors need to change. Americans are inflexible when it comes to wearing mask or controlling their energy use. Switch off lights is a relatively new concept in America. Consumers need to be honestly told that if they want clean energy from sun and wind, they have to be ready to be flexible and yes they may loose power and need to prepare as such. False hopes provided by clean energy Guru's and politicians is causing more pain than solution.

People have lots of hope with #California to lead energy transition. If California fails we will have same outcome as we had for power markets. For 2 decades after Enron there is no credible power market in the World.

Navneet Trivedi's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 18, 2020

Most of the green enthusiast have no formal background in electrical engineering and physical characteristics of the grid.  You can not re-purpose a ship to make a sleek car!

You'll surely have enthusiasts on every side of a debate though, won't you? It's the job of the leaders and the experts to sort out what's viable from the noise

Xisto Filho's picture
Xisto Filho on Aug 24, 2020

I think you are absolutely right when you say that only a few people involved in those green technologies are experts in power systems. Actually we observe that, in several cases,  there is a significant increase in renewable penetration levels, without the support of adequate power sytem studies and analysis that take into account system behavior in normal and critical situations or contingencies. Adding to the penetration level of renewables , there is also uncertainties to the main grid introduced by distributed generation.

Of course , I do not think that anybody is against those renewables, or DG, but the main point is to assure a correct mix of the overall matrix, so as to ensure minimum operation costs, optimal levels of emissions, but also system security, reliability, and resilience.

Otherwise, like you said , make clear to consumers that they will have to accept shortages in their energy requirements.

John Simonelli's picture
John Simonelli on Aug 24, 2020

"Most of the green enthusiast have no formal background in electrical engineering and physical characteristics of the grid." yet those are the very same people that have driven CA's renewable development fast and furious without regard to doing as Xisto points out, the proper analysis of the operational impacts. The unchecked development of new renewables without co-developing adequate large-scale storage is not helping the situation, i.e., adequate resource planning.  CA could easily use 4 to 5GW of pumped storage to help with the ramp issues that drove the feeder rotation not to mention strengthening the grid ties to other western areas.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Aug 25, 2020

Navneet, Most of the green enthusiast are now adding advanced non toxic battery storage to their homes. One of my friends who also drives electric has 5 Tesla cars and 5 Tesla Power Walls along with his 40 kW roof top system. . He can go toally off GRID when he wants or needs to. A lot of my green friends are all asking about and seeing the benefits of adding battery storage. Even the 3 gibbest Utilties in Arizona are adding battery storage by the Mega Watt. 

    So green enthusiast do need to be IEEE Engineers to see all the savings and convience of having their own systems with storage. Some of the added fee's being added by utilties are going to make them form Micro GRID and saying good bye to the Utilties. So it's the Utilties that need to adapt and find ways for EVeryone to work together. They can help the GRID as much as you say they are a problem if you learn to tap into their energy.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Aug 25, 2020

The objective of power production and supply is to provide reasonably clean and reasonably affordable electricity to consumers and businesses. The objective is NOT to bankroll green energy.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 26, 2020

Michael, since the 2005 repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act by George W. Bush, Joe Barton, and other Republicans in Congress under the spell of Big Oil, the objective of power production and supply has been to make as much money as possible - like it is for any private interest. And solar, wind, battery storage, efficiency, ethanol, biofuel, biomass, etc. - aka "green energy," is meeting that goal by guaranteeing natural gas a dominant role in energy production for at least 50 years.

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