The Associated Press (AP) reported on July 1 that California, a state seriously trying to “quit” fossil fuels, is once more looking at them to address energy shortages. A day before the report, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a sweeping energy proposal that puts the Golden State in the business of purchasing power, guaranteeing sufficient energy supply during heat waves that weaken the grid.
Newsom’s proposal sought to “keep the lights on in California, [make it] easier for solar and wind farm developers to sidestep local government opposition and [limit] environmental reviews for all kinds of energy projects. It also served as a probable lifeline to beachfront gas plants, including the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County. Diablo Canyon is the Golden State’s largest power plant and the sole operational nuclear facility.
The June 30 proposal aimed to prevent another scenario where California experienced a series of rolling blackouts that caught national attention last August 2020. Following the blackouts, the state water board decided to permit gas-fired power plants in Redondo Beach and Huntington Beach to continue operations for three extra years.
Bill Brand, mayor of Redondo Beach, expressed disappointment over the decision. “We feel double-crossed. [The] retirement dates [for the gas-fired plants] were set 12 years ago,” he said.
California draws most of its electricity – almost 60 percent – from renewable sources. Newsom played a role in this dependence on so-called “clean energy” with his frequent calls to phase out fossil fuels, dismissing any negative repercussions that may come with the move. The governor’s return to fossil fuels runs against his own rhetoric and also serves as a testimony to how fossil fuels are essential to human survival.
According to the AP report, the Golden State lacks the storage capacity to send enough energy when sporadic energy sources are non-operational – which the June 30 proposal by Newsom seeks to address.
Renewable energy sources can’t address increased demand
Hawaii also found itself realizing the real value of fossil fuels after its renewable energy efforts hit serious snags.
In its enthusiasm to retire coal plants, the Aloha State recently found itself relying on oil to charge the Kapolei Energy Storage Facility following problems with renewable energy projects. The Kapolei facility, basically a huge battery designed to use green energy, was set to replace the AES Hawaii Power Plant in the island of Oahu.
Foundation for Economic Education Managing Editor Jon Miltimore pointed to the absurdity of the endeavor in a May 2021 piece. He wrote: “The reality is there’s not enough wind, solar or battery storage to replace the AES Plant. This means that Hawaiian Electric Company will soon be charging its giant battery with oil. In other words, Hawaiians will be trading one fossil fuel – coal – for another, albeit one far more expensive.”
A May 2022 report by the Wall Street Journal warned of rolling blackouts across the U.S. going into the summer due to the inability of renewable sources to address increased demand. (Related: Electricity shortages are coming, warn power grid operators.)
John Bear, CEO of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, told the publication: “I am concerned about it. As we move forward, we need to know that when you put a solar panel or a wind turbine up, it’s not the same as a thermal resource.”
The article further elaborated: “The challenge is that wind and solar farms, which are among the cheapest forms of power generation, don’t produce electricity at all times and need large batteries to store their output for later use. While a large amount of battery storage is under development, regional grid operators have lately warned that the pace may not be fast enough to offset the closures of traditional power plants that can work around the clock.”
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