Guest post by Rud Istvan,
California WUWT reader Cal B alerted Charles the Moderator to a new document just published by Edison International, the holding company parent for SoCal Edison, the largest electric utility for southern California. Cal B asked if WUWT posters might like to take it on? In his usual charming fashion, CtM got me (after some initial reluctance) to volunteer today over a lunch overlooking South Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway. The key was his sensible solution to my ‘too big a subject’ objection—break it into parts! So this is the first of six parts.
My reasons for agreeing were several.
First, most of the technical difficulty issues buried in Pathway 2045 I previously covered, albeit at posts over at Judith Curry’s Climate Etc and/or in my ebook Blowing Smoke. So there was not a whole lot of new research required.
Second, it is stunning that an electric utility could foist such technical and economic nonsense onto its California customers. One presumes it was forced by coming California requirements imposed by Newsom worse than the crazy 2030 requirements to which SoCalEd already crazily responded in 2017.
Third, as WUWT matures and changes from just the climate science to the climate politics, it is attracting new readers that may not be familiar with long past technical analyses. This is an opportunity to “bundle’” the big ‘Green New Deal’ energy fact picture together again.
This first part provides a ‘30000 foot’ overview of the whole thing. Pathway 2045 to Zero Net Carbon California comprises five separate ‘solution’ parts:
- 1. Decarbonize electricity
- 2. Electrify transportation
- 3. Electrify buildings
- 4. Use low carbon fuels
- 5. Sink remaining carbon
Decarbonizing electricity either means renewables or nuclear. SoCalEd does NOT propose nuclear. They propose renewables. That raises ‘only’ three small problems. Renewables are not economically viable without massive subsidies. Renewables are intermittent, requiring additional backup capacity for when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine. Renewables provide no grid inertia. Renewables are therefore a proven an economic disaster, as California’s high electricity rates already prove. But SoCalEd doesn’t care—their revenues will rise bigly and their regulated utility returns are ‘rate guaranteed’.
Electrifying transportation (Tesla) also runs into three problems. First, the required grid capacity increment is enormous. Second, vehicles like work pickups or class 8 tractors cannot be electrified, despite Tesla’s imaginary promises to the contrary—all battery, no cargo capacity. Third, there are serious lithium and cobalt resource constraints.
Electrifying buildings beyond what exists today (some HVAC, lighting) has two problems. Existing buildings or their subsystems would essentially have to be torn down/out and replaced, but NOT at SoCalEd cost. Maybe owners will balk at their expensive wishful thinking. Second, places yet more need for Capex to expand grid capacity beyond vehicle electrification, since most commercial buildings do NOT have enough surface exposure for self sustained solar or wind.
Using low carbon fuels should mean nuclear. SoCalEd means more than natural gas fired CCGT in place of coal, a transition already happening for economic reasons. They mean biofuels and hydrogen (e.g. fuel cells), for which they have apparently studied neither the carbon chemistry nor the energy thermodynamics.
Sinking remaining carbon means either forestry or ocean iron fertilization (geoengineering). SoCalEd’s northern California electric utility partner PGE has gone into bankruptcy for causing forest fires that destroyed carbon sinks. And the fires around LA this fall suggest SoCalEd isn’t much better at preserving them. Part 6 will discuss whether the plan might be for SoCalEd ratepayers to pay extra for carbon credits to wherever to plant trees or fertilize barren oceans.
In sum, this is SoCalEd’s version of the Green New Deal. Pigs cannot fly no matter how much lipstick is put on them. The stock is a strong short. California is a strong short. There are three climate response crash test dummies in the world today: Australia, UK, and California. This new position paper by the largest California electric utility leapfrogs California into first crash dummy place.