Reports indicate that, due to a persistent "heat dome" that's settled over the southwestern United States in recent weeks, energy needs in California are quickly outpacing supply. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warned back in May that California faces a "significant risk of encountering operating conditions that could result in operating reserve shortfalls" as a result.
On July 24, California's power demand was expected to outstrip its available generating capacity by an astounding 5,000 megawatts (mW), according to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), as more Californians than perhaps ever before are using their air conditioning units to try to survive the unbearable heat.
So why can't California produce enough energy to meet these demands? According to CAISO, "reduced electricity imports" and "tight natural gas supplies" are to blame, as is the high wildfire risk in many areas of the state. What CAISO isn't telling you is that California is also trying to eliminate the use of all fossil fuels for energy, relying only on wind and solar, which simply doesn't produce enough supply to meet demand.
In addition to lower hydro (water) conditions, California has retired about 789 mW worth of natural gas generation in recent years, which had been available during previous summers of high heat. This means that California has intentionally shut off energy sources that were needed to meet demand in order to reach its "green" energy targets.
Californians are already feeling the heat (no pun intended) as tens of thousands of them reportedly lost power back in early July when record-setting heat waves swept the state. Southern California, and the Los Angeles area in particular, saw plus-110 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, which is highly unusual for this part of the state.
While many Californians who live along the coast traditionally haven't owned air conditioners, increasing temperatures in recent years has driven some of them to make the investment. This has placed increased strain on the energy grid – so much so that local utilities simply can't keep up with the need to keep things cool and comfortable during these periods of extreme heat.
CAISO continues to ask California customers "to conserve electricity especially during the late afternoon and evening when air conditioners typically are at peak use." Customers can further help to prevent power interruptions "by turning off all unnecessary lights, using major appliances before 5 p.m. and after 9 p.m., and setting air conditioners to 78 degrees or higher."
But this will likely only lead to moderate improvements, as California's clean energy standards continue to force traditional energy production methods into retirement – methods like coal and nuclear power that, despite what the climate change fanatics might claim, are actually needed to keep the lights on.
As we previously reported, California is trying to convert its entire energy grid to wind, water, and sunlight by the year 2050. Part of this involves requiring that all new homes built throughout the state be outfit with solar panels, which can help to reduce the energy burden of a household by about 50 percent.
But is it enough to get California through crazy heat waves and other events that lead to high energy demand? If the latest news about rolling blackouts is any indication, then not so much.
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