California Dreaming


By Paul Homewood

h/t Dave Ward

California’s electric grid faces years of potential blackouts and failure as state leaders continue pushing aggressive measures to transition to renewable energy sources, policy experts tell Fox News Digital.

The state’s grid, which is still mainly powered by fossil fuels, is undergoing a major shift from natural gas and coal power to renewable power like wind and solar. Simultaneously, state officials are pushing an electrification of the economy, particularly in the transportation sector through electric vehicle mandates, which is expected to increase pressure on the grid.

“California is drastically cutting our dependence on fossil fuels and cleaning our air,” Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a November announcement unveiling the “world’s first detailed pathway to carbon neutrality.”

The state’s plan involves goals to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 85%, cut oil usage by 94% and deploy more solar and wind capacity over the next two decades. The aggressive plan to overhaul the state’s energy system came three months after a top California environmental agency moved forward with a rule requiring all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2035.

In 2021, the most recent year with data, wind and solar accounted for about 25% of total electricity generated in California while natural gas accounted for more than 50% of in-state electricity generation. And 19% of new car sales in California were zero-emission vehicles, state data showed.

Experts told Fox News Digital environmental mandates implemented by Newsom and his administration have already created instability in the grid, an issue they argued would only get worse as existing fossil fuel power generation capacity was taken offline and replaced by intermittent sources.

“They’re going to have to build an outrageous amount of wind and solar in a very short time if they want to accomplish their objectives of electrifying — our whole transportation sector and our whole home heating and cooling and residential sector,” Edward Ring, a senior fellow with and co-founder of the California Policy Center, told Fox News Digital in an interview.

“There’s a burden to the consumer that’s going to get very heavy,” he continued. “Even if they can pull it off without blackouts, the burden to the consumer is going to be ridiculous.” 

The full article is well worth reading here.

The scale of the transition is evident from the current energy mix in California:

According to the California Energy Commission:

“To reach the 2045 target while electrifying other sectors to meet the state’s economywide climate goals, California will need to roughly triple its current electricity grid capacity.”

My calculations suggest this is underestimated. Current grid capacity is 81 GW, including about 40 GW of renewables, including hydro. The CAC figures imply about 240 GW in total by 2045. Given that there are no plans to build new nuclear, and hydro is pretty much limited to current capacities, most of this extra capacity will have to be solar.

Wind power, by the way, is as unreliable as it is in this country, as the latest data shows. It would be suicidal for California to rely heavily on wind power:

Electricity only accounts for about 30% of total energy usage in California. But the 2045 decarbonisation targets imply that this ratio will have to rise to maybe 90%, with the electrification of cars, heating, industry and so on.

In other words, electricity generation may need to triple, which maybe is what the CAC mean. But because wind and solar power have such low utilisation rates, the capacity will have to rise much more than three times.

Below is my back of the Players Weights packet, assuming hydro, bio and geo stay the same as now, and wind power doubles. Under this scenario, solar power generation would need to rise to 540 TWh from its current level of 33 TWh:

Solar capacity would need to increase from 14 GW to 229 GW, with total grid capacity rising to 260 GW. But these figures assume that solar panel productivity is the same all year round, currently around 25%.

During winter months this is much less; on Feb 12th, for instance, utilisation fell to 18%. Allowing for system reserves and contingencies, you would probably have to plan on a figure of about 15%, which would mean you would need solar capacity of 410 GW, rather than 229 GW. Inevitably much of this would be redundant for much of the year. (The alternative would be to provide battery storage for seasonal peaks in demand and troughs in generation, but I suspect this would be prohibitively expensive).

You may also have to add more capacity to cope with demand during heatwaves, which can add 30 GW to average usage.

Two other things to consider:

  • California gets about a third of its power from other states, 84 TWh in 2021. At least half of this is fossil fuel/nuclear/hydro, which will either not be available in twenty years time, or in the case of hydro cannot be increased. Given the likely shortage of power in other states, it would extremely foolish to rely on these imports going forward.
  • Gavin Newsom is also relying heavily on energy efficiency, but any savings are likely to be offset by increased demand. Having said that, he is doing such a good job of running the state that Californians are migrating in droves to states like Texas, Tennessee and Florida, along with chunks of the industrial base, so that should help!

Which brings us to the $64 billion (or is it trillion?) question – storage.

I have assumed for this exercise that storage is only needed for 24 hour cycles, and that seasonal peaks are covered by installing extra generation capacity.

Battery storage needs would need to be planned around winter, when generation is at its lowest. My calculations suggest that storage would need to be about 70% of daily consumption in mid-winter. Based on 540 TWh a year, and allowing for extra demand for heating in winter. daily consumption of solar power would be about 1.6 TWh, giving a storage of 1.12 TWh. (Current battery storage by comparison is 4316 MWh – in other words California would need more than a million times as much storage as it has now!).

But as the CAC conveniently point out, battery capacity quickly declines:

There would probably need to be a constant, rolling 10-year replacement programme for batteries. Over that life span, average capacity may be no more than 50% in effective terms, given that you cannot run batteries dry. So that 1.12 TWh needs to be doubled to 2.24 TWh. (The idea, by the way, that you would want to run your grid on second hand car batteries shows just how ramshackle this whole programme is! It would be self defeating, in any case, because those car batteries would soon be useless).

Currently battery prices are around $200/KWh. Laughingly the CAC expect these to fall by two thirds, on the back of rising demand for EVs. The dolts have not worked out that increased demand will send prices of the raw materials needed much higher!

So, working with the current $200, that 2.24 TWh would cost $448 billion. With a ten year life, that’s $44.8 billion every year. And that is only the cost of the battery; there vis also the cost of infrastructure, switchgear, transmission networks and labour to consider. I doubt you would get much change out of $100 billion. And this is every year hereafter.

It is usually claimed that renewable energy reduces dependence on petro-state dictators. It is always a silly argument, because you can buy fossil fuels from around the world, and the US could be self sufficient if it wanted to.

But this suicidal lurch to solar power brings with it a much greater geopolitical risk. A grid that is wholly dependent on batteries would put California at the mercy of China’s monopoly of batteries and the raw materials that go into them.

And once California has gone down that path, there would be no way back.

via Watts Up With That?

February 18, 2023 at 04:11PM

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