“Southern California has been able to withstand the heat wave mainly due to municipal power contracts for imported coal and nuclear power, as well as generation from its local gas-fired power plants. Northern California, meanwhile, suffered the brunt of the blackouts due to green power mandates.”
“Soon, many Californians may have to install stationary gas or propane electrical generators or portable gasoline generators to withstand regular outages, but the poor will not be able to afford them.”
About 75 percent of Los Angeles electricity demand is being met by imported coal power and local gas-fired power plants during peak hours of the August triple-digit heat wave. This is the fact of facts, however politically incorrect.
Instead of thanking conventional energies, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) stated it was conservation efforts that avoided more extensive rolling blackouts. But data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) confirms the role of “dirty” natural-gas power and imported coal-by-wire from Utah and Arizona.
Los Angeles, not part of the state energy grid, operates its own power plants, transmission lines, and distribution grid. The municipality Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) reports its reliance on:
Pollution from coal power plant emissions in Utah and Arizona do not create smog in Los Angeles, which is important because the LA Basin traps air emissions from an inversion layer. Conversely, Arizona and Utah do not have basin topographies but are plains states where natural winds dilute air pollution instead of trapping it (“the solution to pollution is dilution”).
So, despite Los Angeles’s quixotic goal to shift to 100 percent green power by 2045, the City has imported coal power and exported any air pollution to areas where it is dissipated instead of trapped.
Reliance on natural gas and coal power is helping Los Angeles avoid even larger power deficiency blackouts (versus fire-storm safety blackouts or downed power-line blackouts). Nonetheless, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has stated his plan to phase out three coastal natural gas power plants (one in 2024 and two in 2029) with wind, solar, geothermal, and battery storage.
The amount of natural gas power use will increase when the state mandate closes Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in 2025. The Intermountain Power Coal Power Plant in Utah is scheduled to be closed by 2027 and possibly converted to gas-fired power, but the City of Los Angeles does not want to buy such imports in the future.
California energy officials have begun urging extended permits on the California coastal power plants, as natural gas is lifeline power during summer heat waves or winter cold snaps. Solar, wind, and battery power are insufficient to meet peak demand. But like the rest of California, there is no plan to retain natural gas power plants in the City of Los Angeles or buy imported gas or coal power.
Worsening the blackout problem during heat waves and winter cold snaps is that increasing solar reliance creates a power drop at sunset that only natural gas and nuclear power can mitigate. This “daily energy crisis” is called the “Duck Curve” because the use of power at sunset resembles the profile of a duck’s body.
Rich Okay, Poor Not
Neither California nor the City of Los Angeles have plans to keep the lights on except to build more “green” capacity, which mainly benefits the rich and hurts the poor via higher electricity rates and regular blackouts and outages. In the UCLA study’s words:
California’s programs to subsidize rooftop solar and electric cars are disproportionately benefiting wealthier homes that often use more energy than they need to live comfortably. And they’re disproportionately leaving behind lower-income families who often can’t afford to use enough energy to stay warm or cool, depending on the season, and who would benefit greatly from cost-saving clean energy technologies.
Soon many Californians may have to install stationary natural-gas electrical generators or portable gasoline generators to withstand regular outages, but the poor will not be able to afford them.
Blackouts are ‘Greenouts‘
Rolling blackouts and shutdowns of transmission lines due to wind-driven firestorms have become regular events in California. Expect regular blackouts due to insufficient “dispatchable power” (coal, gas, nuclear power) during sunset hours.
Twelve independent suburban cities in Southern California have their own consolidated municipal power company – The Southern California Power Authority – that relies on imported coal-fired power plants in Utah for about 33 percent of their power in addition to another 13 percent from imported nuclear power and local natural gas power plants. So what happens when coal, natural gas, and nuclear power goes away by 2045 and there is no capability of meeting peak demands during heat waves or the daily energy crisis of the Duck Curve hours?
Imported Power: Bad or Good
Some blame the recent power-deficiency blackouts on California’s 25 percent dependence on imported power from nearby states. But as pointed out in this article, what bailed Los Angeles out of blackouts was its 75 percent reliance on imported coal and natural gas power.
What made central California more susceptible to blackouts than Los Angeles was that local city green energy-buying cooperatives (Community Choice Aggregators) failed to comply with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) order to buy 3,300 megawatts of more natural gas power and instead invested it in battery power.
Southern California has municipal power agencies, not green-power cooperatives and regulated public electrical utilities, that are prevalent in Central California. Southern California cities need to import power to meet their air quality mandates.
Southern California has withstood the heat wave mainly due to municipal power contracts for imported coal and nuclear power, as well as generation from its local gas-fired power plants. Northern California, meanwhile, suffered the brunt of the blackouts due to green power mandates.
Regulated Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) suffered blackouts because California decentralized the buying of power to municipal agencies (called Community Choice Aggregators) such as Marin Clean Power that depends on a 60 percent mix of green power.
Governor Newsom could only complain:
These blackouts, which occurred without prior warning or enough time for preparation, are unacceptable and unbefitting of the nation’s largest and most innovative state. This cannot stand. California residents and businesses deserve better from their government.
To which the energy expert could retort: Dilute, intermittent energies dependent on taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies are unbefitting (really incompatible with) modern electronics and consumer demand.
The question remains: how long can coal- and gas-generated power keep the Golden State from massive blackouts?