Back in the good old days — pre-Aug. 15, 2020 — when all we worried about were possible planned power outages during the wildfire season, more than a few environmentalists were hammering away at a PG&E plan to deploy emergency diesel generators to power stations to keep electricity flowing.
The PG&E plan — approved by the California Public Utilities Commission June 11 to avoid cutting off 2 million people for days at a time as happened during the 2019 wildfire season — was to deploy portable truck-trailer generators to areas they were needed to keep the lights on that could produce 430 megawatts of electricity.
The greenies weren’t happy.
They insisted solar power in some form would be as reliable awhile being more green.
Then the heat wave hit along with 11,000 plus lightning strikes. The end result was to expose the green folly for what it was.
The heat wave got the ball rolling.
Peak demand for power is in the early evening hours. That happens to be the same time solar power production starts to decline. It seems the sun doesn’t want to cooperate with the hardline environmentalist agenda as it slips away just when Californians consume the most electricity.
It might surprise you to know California’s power usage peaked at 2:44 p.m. on July 24, 2006 with 50,270 megawatts being used.
On Aug. 14, 2020 — the first day heat was 20 degrees above normal — power demand was at 46,979 megawatts. That was the first night of rolling blackouts. The next night there was even more rolling blackouts even though the peak demand was less at 44,947 megawatts. Fourteen years later with 2.5 million more residents California is once again enjoying rolling power blackouts.
The California Independent System Operator said there were no transmission line bottlenecks. Instead there was simply not enough power.
While there was some solar off line and a natural gas plant knocked out of production, it wasn’t enough to explain the shortage. The experts say they are stumped yet the answer is likely staring them in their face. The only problem is the answer is not politically correct.
The state’s utilities for the last two decades have been under marching orders from the California Public Utilities Commission channeling the California Legislature to eliminate coal plants, decommission nuclear power plants, and get rid of natural gas plants.
Do not blame PG&E or any other public utility on this one. Even though they drank the Kool-Aid it is pretty tough to buck folks that believe they have the right policy in place that will turn water into gold. It doesn’t help that the CPUC is much more laser focused on being green than they are trying to keep power costs down. The CPUC mission at its inception to look out for the interests of consumers never carried an asterisk before that green trumps affordability and reliability.
As a result unlike in 2006, this summer we are at the mercy of power mix that has issues when the winds die down and the skies get cloudy or — as they have been for the last week — saturated with smoke.
The problem with the green movement at times is that those at the forefront are locked in ideological battles instead of taking a more pragmatic approach.
Given most of Californians live in basins susceptible to air pollution you’d be hard pressed to find anyone embracing electricity from coal even if it surged through our power lines from four states away. Nuclear power has fewer detractors. But even though it is clean in terms of air quality there are issues such as using seawater to cool towers, the potential for an accident and what to do with spent rods.
Natural gas is the least offensive of the three by far but because it involves burning fossil fuels it is a sin for a greenie not to snuff it out.
It explains why there is a relentless push back from environmental groups against a proposal to bring some older Southern California natural gas plants back on line.
So now we are dealing with the joys of having a third of the power required to keep the lights on and avoid California from sinking to Third World status being from renewable green sources. That means solar, wind, and hydroelectric.
This would be a good time to bring in a little fun fact. The state out-of-the-gate years ago in its green drive imposed a quirky little rule that prevented utilities from counting existing hydroelectric plants as renewable green power to meet state imposed quotas because it is not “new” power.
So before the heat wave and lightning strikes sparks over 560 wildfires exposed a major weakness in the green strategy, the greenies were pummeling PG&E for even suggesting portable emergency generators relying on diesel or natural gas for that matter.
Do you think that the reality of the past 10 days would get them to back off? If you do then you’ve forgotten that California is a Deep Green State. And while you may believe those whose political labels are identified solely as being red or blue are rigid, they are flexible compared to the hardcore greenies.
They are pushing for storage batteries like the massive ones manufactured by the patron saint company of the green movement hawks — Tesla.
To be honest the concept is effective as it is with the micro grid in Borrego Springs that weds local power generation with energy storage and state-of-the-art switching and power management to make a system that is extremely resilient and serves 2,800 people.
But pushing such a solution on the nation’s largest utility with 16 million customers and it is going to prove costly to put in place.
PG&E’s solution for this year for emergency power during planned outages is expected to be in excess of $153 million. Ratepayers — you and I — get to pay for that.
Since the fix is in to force PG&E into more green options for power backup next year for wildfires by 2022, don’t be surprise if the Teslas of the world get some help from their green friends in Sacramento to force massive purchases of large storage batteries.
The end result will result in another record fire. This one, however, will burn through your COVID-19 ravaged paycheck like there is no tomorrow in order to pay the bill the greenies will end up foisting on you with yet another expensive mandate imposed on PG&E that will increase power costs.
Of course greenies will say that there push to snuff out the last natural gas power plant has nothing to do with what we are going through today.
But it does not take much to make a connection between decreased solar production when the sun goes down and available energy dropping at the same time to figure out maybe that we need to slow down our lemming march led by flute playing greenies and at the very least take a pause and readjust our strategy.
No one is saying abandon going green. It is more of a need to make sure the green we are pushing for doesn’t turn things blackish green in a shade reminiscent of gangrene and kill off large chunks of the economy like nature’s gangrene can do to human skin.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.