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Newsom, Energizer Bunny of Sacramento politics, wants to make a deal with ‘the devil’
New Dennis Wyatt picture 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Want to scare the living daylights out of Gov. Gavin Newsom?

Then if you have an electric vehicle, I dare you to charge it today between 3 and 7 p.m. If enough people do it, the Golden State will be the Brown Out State.

And, if all of the fears of the California Independent Operator System, California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Energy Commission all converge at the same time the Brown Out State will become a full-blown Black Out State.

That could short circuit Newsom’s budding presidential aspirations quicker than a mylar balloon can take out a PG&E transmission line.

Somehow the architect of California’s cutting edge green energy and greenhouse gas reduction strategy standing  by hopelessly as it implodes and leaves millions of people — including the elderly and infirm — without air conditioning on a 106 degree day won’t impress a lot of swing voters in Peoria.

If you think this is overreach, the “devil” is in the details. As it just happens, the devil in Spanish is “diablo.”

This brings us to what could become Newsom’s Waterloo: Diablo Canyon. More specifically Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Newsom, the man who waved his wand and handed down fiats such as:

• No more new vehicles run on fossil fuel shall be sold in California starting in 2035.

• All electricity in the Golden State shall be renewable.

• Natural gas to heat homes and cook food will eventually be banned.

• High-speed rail powered by electricity won’t cause the lights to dim in Fresno.

The last might be a concern but it certainly isn’t something Newsom would admit could happen.

And in all fairness, Newsom is on the right track. The problem is you can’t force something when you don’t have the wherewithal to deliver.

Actually, that’s not true. You can force things but you’ll have to be willing to pay a high price. Or more appropriately in the case of green power, the people you govern will have to pay a high price. And those paying the highest price will be the ones of the bottom of the heap. They’re the ones who can’t afford an EV even with a $7,500 federal tax credit. They’re the ones that don’t qualify for assistance with their PG&E bills and have to drive a long way to work. Switching them to EVs shoves them even further under the heavy and expensive foot of PG&E.

Keep in mind, the big difference between PG&E and the gas companies is simple. PG&E rates go up every year while gas prices ebb and flow. And unlike gas stations where you can shun Chevron and Shell for lower cost dealers such as Sinclair, if you want electricity you’ve got to pay homage to PG&E.

Back to the devil is in the details.

Diablo Canyon happens to produce 9.3 percent of the electricity used in California. It is also a lightning rod for green energy warriors that don’t like nuclear power even though it clearly reduces greenhouse gas.

Actually, that is the problem with Newsom’s green energy/greenhouse gas reduction strategy in a nutshell. It’s their way or the highway.

There’s no room for wiggle room such as allowing hybrid vehicles, electricity produced by natural gas for better reliability, and similar moves that aren’t a slave to being absolute 100 percent pure but gets us a lot closer to green goals.

Newsom — the Cool Hand Luke of Sacramento in terms of his appeal — has every reason to sweat the details as California bakes at the mid-point of summer.

The California Energy Commission’s 2021 report on the total energy consumption in the state is the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

• Diablo Canyon is scheduled to close down in 2025 as California’s last nuclear power plant. It produced 9.3 percent of the electricity the state used in 2021.

• Big hydro generated 9.2 percent. The drought has already cut back on hydro power production. There’s an expectation before we reach fall that most of the power turbines at the base of reservoirs will stop spinning.

• Wind accounted for 11.4%. The problem with that, as anyone who has lived in California through a summer knows, when  it reaches the 100 degree mark and beyond it happens because cooling winds cease to blow. That, in turn, reduces wind power that is used to power air conditioning and such.

• Solar produced 14.2% of the electricity. Stagnant summer days with cloud cover and haze reduces their effectiveness somewhat. If a wildfire breaks out that sends smoke across large swaths of the state — especially the Central Valley — solar production plummets.

The CPUC requiring PG&E and other power providers to rollout time of use charges making power more costly during peak periods wasn’t done in a vacuum.

The three previously mentioned state agencies that oversee aspects of energy production, distribution, and pricing warned earlier this year even without a blistering heat wave during peak use hours this summer between 3 and 9 p.m. weekdays, models show the Golden State has a solid chance of coming up short 1,700 megawatts.

Based on historic use, power may need to be cut to 1.3 million California households. That translates roughly to 4 million people or a tenth of all Californians possibly being without electricity.

If wildfires, a heat wave, drought conditions, smoky/cloudy skies, and winds all align the shortfall could easily hit 5,000 megawatts. That translates into 3.75 million homes.

But don’t worry, be happy. In the past year there have been a few minutes where 99 percent of the power California has consumed was totally green.

It is regulations that have dictated the shift to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045 with the attached benchmark of being 60 percent the by 2030 that is fueling the pending power crisis that will likely cripple the world’s sixth largest economy at various times in the coming years.

Do not misunderstand. This is not a criticism of the need to move toward such a goal. It is, however, an indictment of the myopic approach that nixes nuclear power and going cold turkey as soon as possible on all carbon-based power use in California regardless of how large of a footprint it leaves per megawatt generated.

Newsom is dangling a $1.4 billion “loan” for earthquake retrofits in front of PG&E to get them to drink the Kool-Aid needed to not damage his presidential aspirations by extending Diablo Canyon’s operating life another five to 10 years.

This is not a good move for ratepayers.

If it goes sideways as things tend to do when PG&E gets involved with at the state’s insistence such as forcing them to enter into long-term green energy contracts that are now severely overpriced, the for-profit utility will do what they do best and declare bankruptcy.

That means as a taxpayer and a PG&E ratepayer you will end up paying twice for Newsom “seeing the light” for a fleeting moment in regards to nuclear power as he tries to trade dining at the French Laundry in Napa Valley  for the state Dining Room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia.