California’s Self-Imposed, Dangerous Energy Shortage
Posted July 26, 2018
Californians are facing blisteringly hot weather conditions this week as the result of a “heat dome” centered across much of the state. To make matters worse, many have found themselves without power just as the temperatures reach dangerous highs. Now California’s power grid operator says it can’t produce enough electricity to meet demand, risking rolling blackouts and jeopardizing residents – an outcome they were explicitly warned of months ago.
The grid operator’s own assessment earlier this year indicated an “increased risk” of energy shortages due to “the retirement of 789 MW of dispatchable natural gas generation that had been available in prior summers to meet high load conditions.” While they maintained that they were able to mitigate capacity shortfalls during extreme weather, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warned that the “report does not consider the limitations at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility. Natural gas limitations and pipeline outages could exacerbate these conditions.” NERC:
“The outlook for energy reliability in Southern California remains challenging due to uncertainty about the status of its natural gas system. The challenges to the natural gas system are greater than for the previous two summers and… stem primarily from continuing outages on as many as four key natural gas pipelines and the operational constraints limiting the use of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.”
Because of state-imposed operating restrictions, and the push from state regulators to eliminate safe, reliable, clean natural gas-fired plants, California’s residents are faced with insufficient energy resources at a time when a lack of air conditioning can put lives at risk. To make matters worse, additional natural gas-fired plants are slated to retire over the next few months. While an aspirational energy system based entirely on solar and wind may sound great to some, an energy policy that puts consumers at risk is entirely unacceptable.
As intermittent energies grow their share of power generation, natural gas’ importance increases. Natural gas is uniquely positioned among energy sources to provide necessary reliability attributes, including dispatchability, ramp rates, and frequency response. It serves as a partner for wind and solar when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine. As the United States’ leading energy source for generating electricity, natural gas generation has ultimately improved the stability and balance of our nation’s power system.
And, it’s the chief reason U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are at 25-year lows.
Yes, despite the proven history of clean, reliable natural gas, this is not the first time consumers have been put at risk by bad state policies.
“Insufficient natural gas infrastructure continues to put the region’s customers at risk of service interruptions during periods of peak demand that often coincide with extreme weather conditions.”
Does that sound familiar? No, I’m not simply repeating what I just said about California. Those were the words used to describe the current situation in New England, except in that case the state policies are leading to a shortage of heat in the middle of blisteringly cold winter weather.
So why, at a time when the United States is breaking records for natural gas production, are Americans put in jeopardy due to a lack of electricity? I asked this about New England, and — unfortunately —the answer holds true for California: Because anti-consumer government policies and extreme environmentalism have prevented natural gas from supplying the power consumers desperately need.
Again, natural gas is an essential partner in the growth of intermittent renewable sources, providing reliable power when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. It is the main reason that U.S. carbon emissions are at 25-year lows. Thanks to natural gas, the air we breathe is the cleanest of the modern era and continues to improve. If — as they claim — California regulators are motivated by a cleaner environment, then natural gas must be a foundation for the future of the state’s energy policy.
About The Author
Jessica Lutz is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. Jessica joined API after 10+ years leading the in-house marketing and communications for non-profits and trade associations. A Michigan native, Jessica graduated from The University of Michigan with degrees in Communications and Political Science. She resides in Washington, D.C., and spends most of her free time trying to keep up with her energetic Giant Schnauzer, Jackson.
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