Forbes: “Blackouts Expose Perils And Costs Of California’s ‘Electrify Everything’ Push”

20487672 – wind turbines and power lines against sunset

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t The White House; Even Forbes, whose deep green editors recently censored Michael Shellenberger for criticising the climate movement, has sharply criticised California’s headlong rush into a new dark age of unreliable electricity.

Blackouts Expose Perils And Costs Of California’s ‘Electrify Everything’ Push

Robert Bryce Contributor Energy
I write about energy, power, innovation, and politics.
Aug 18, 2020, 08:26pm EDT

The blackouts that hit California over the past few days exposed the fragility of one of the most-expensive and least-reliable electric grids in North America. They also show that California’s grid can’t handle the load it has now, much less accommodate the enormous amount of new demand that would have to be met if the state attempts to “electrify everything.” 

The push to electrify everything would prohibit the use of natural gas in buildings, electrify transportation, and require the grid to run solely on renewables (and maybe, a dash of nuclear). But attempting to electrify the entire California economy will further increase the cost of energy at the very same time that the state’s electricity rates are soaring. That will result in yet-higher energy costs for low- and middle-income Californians.

California may be known for Silicon Valley and the beauty of its mountains and beaches, but it also has the highest poverty rate of any state in America. When accounting for the cost of living, 18.1% of the state’s residents are living in poverty. For perspective, that means that roughly 7 million Californians — a population about the size of Arizona’s — are living in poverty. 

Years of misguided policies have left Californians plugged into a tattered electric grid that can’t handle a heatwave. Californians now rely on an electricity network that looks and acts more like a grid you’d find in Beirut or Africa than ones in Europe or the United States. 

In short, the blackouts that hit California a few days ago appear to be only a taste of the pain to come. And the state’s consumers are going to be paying even higher prices for that pain.

Read more:

In my opinion California has until now concealed the true scale of their electricity supply problems from voters, by quietly importing vast amounts of power from other states when their own unreliable green electricity system falters.

But this time the green energy charade failed. Spare power from other states was not available – during the recent widespread heatwave, demand in other states also surged, so other states did not have enough spare electricity to cover California’s needs.

Renewable advocates claim that the unreliability of renewables can be overcome by smart grids. But there appears to have been nothing smart about the allegedly incompetent management of California’s grid over the last week.

If the home of centers of technical excellence like JPL and Silicon Valley cannot get green energy right, then nobody can.

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August 22, 2020 10:26 am

Every power expert is (or should be) aware that the future is small modula molten salt nuclear reactors. There is NOTHING about either solar or wind that is superior to the environmental (and practical) goodness of
molten salt reactors. Nothing that is deemed negative about conventional nuclear (melt downs, proliferation, costs, baseload only) applies to moltensalt reactors, making any claim that they are similar to current light water reactors complete nonsense and proof of supreme ignorance about this technology. One would expect California to look to technology to “solve” their carbon emission problems, but instead they are hooked on 16th century wind technology and silly belief that a “smart grid” can generate power. California’s leading officials are about as dumbas they come. They exist because illegals haveflooded their state

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  ColMosby
August 22, 2020 10:58 am

Col, as I’ve posted before, molten salt reactors are an unproven technology with unresolved technical issues that are decades away from regulatory approval. Natural gas now, phase in conventional small modular reactors from 2030-2050. THEN molten salt reactors. Promoting them as a present day solution for a non-existent global warming crisis is a distraction (IMHO).

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 22, 2020 11:39 am

“molten salt reactors are an unproven technology”
1960s technology. The science was demonstrated, the technology issues are well understood.
The story of how any why these reactors were developed, and then set aside in favor of PWR Uranium reactors is an interesting bit of history.

“decades away from regulatory approval.”
Sadly, all too true. Here is a hint:
Decades, This is political, nothing to do with science, technology, or engineering.
One can easily see that the de facto mission of the NRC was to kill nuclear power in the US. The instrument of death was regulation with a two pronged approach.
1) Stretch out the regulatory approval over years or even decades, forcing the investors to burn through their capital.
2) Regulate mandates for ever more expensive equipment, procedures, and “standards” for “Safety”. You can never be Too Safe, you know.
3) {Bonus} In the event a plant gets under construction, wait until concrete is poured and steel is cut and welded. Then hit them with endless Change Orders. For Safety, of course. Production schedules are thrown into chaos, and costs skyrocket.

As I note, all this is political and can be reversed politically, if the will is there.
For comparison:
World War II
US Start: Dec 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor attacked
All End: Aug. 15, 1945 – VJ Day
Total duration – 3 years, 9 months.

Keep this in mind when someone tells you it will take a decade to get a permit for anything.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  TonyL
August 22, 2020 7:04 pm

Metallurgy, you need to do some research on metallurgy, ceramic coatings have promise but there’s a big difference between proven concept and long term demonstrated economic safe and reliable operation. If a 40 year expected life can’t be demonstrated neither reulators nor investors will buy in.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 23, 2020 6:23 am

Hastelloy X was developed to use in the first operating molten salt reactor in the 60s. It’s been 60 years. Metallurgy has advanced along with all the other technologies needed to build another molten salt reactor.

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 23, 2020 8:42 am

Existing for 40 years is not the same thing as demonstrating that a pump made out of this material would last for 40 years.

Reply to  TonyL
August 22, 2020 7:30 pm

Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station
Construction began December 15, 1964
Commission date December 1, 1969 – Before NRC
Decommission date September 17, 2018
Construction cost $488 million (2007 USD)

Electricity sold for about a half a million a day. Even Rancho Seco made a profit with a capacity factor of only 60%. Homes and Autos sell for ten times as much as they did in the 60/70’s, NPPs cost 10 times as much as in the 60/70’s yet electricity sells for only 4 or 5 times as much as back in the 60/70’s. WHY.

Amos E. Stone
Reply to  Uzurbrain
August 23, 2020 4:44 am

Great reactor – ran for nearly 50 years. Over 190TWh electricity produced. But a conventional BWR, not a molten salt reactor.

No commercial molten salt reactor exists, or ever has. Two experimental reactors have been built and a lot of useful science done, neither were connected to the grid. They may well be in the future, but no-one is even building one yet.

Unless anyone knows different, of course.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  TonyL
August 22, 2020 7:48 pm

TonyL, right the technology issues are well understood, but remain unresolved. We are several years from developing a suitable alloy that MIGHT work. How long before this new to be developed alloy will be perfected and proven in a nuclear pilot plant? Not years, decades.
Hastelloy N has not been qualified for use in nuclear construction, and significant additional characterization would be required for Code qualification. Given that this alloy is susceptible to He embrittlement and has limited high-temperature strength, it is not recommended that Code qualification be pursued.

Instead, it is recommended that a systematic development program be initiated to develop new nickel alloys that contain a fine, stable dispersion of intermetallic particles to trap He at the interface between the matrix and particle and with increased solid solution strengthening from addition of refractory elements. Extensive screening of attractive alloy compositions for elevated temperature strength, microstructural stability, weldability, and resistance to He embrittlement (characterized using ion implantation) will lead to an alloy down-selection for commercialization and Code qualification.

Charles Higley
Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 22, 2020 1:19 pm

Actually, the main reason molten salt reactors were not pursued because you cannot generate weapons grade fissionables from them. Fast breeder solid-fuel reactors were thus the goal. Once we were done with the cold war, the greenies decided that anything and everything “nuclear” was bad.

We know now that higher-than-background levels of radiation can make one healthier, with a more vital immune system. A building in Japan was built with steel girders containing radioactive cobalt (by accident). A number of years later, once the authorities found out about the mistake, they checked their liability first by looking at the health of office workers in the building and of workers in surrounding buildings. Surprisingly, people in the “hot” building were healthier than those in the other buildings. Just like many toxins, the toxicity is in the dose.

Nuclear magnetic resonance has been used for decades to examine the structures of organic chemicals. When it was applied to humans, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) scared people. They then changed the name to “magnetic resonance imaging” (MRI) and everyone is fine. There is nothing radiative or “nuclear” about MRI, as it uses strong magnetic fields to interact with the nuclei of atoms in the water molecules in tissues that then give off radiowaves that allow a picture to be created based on water content.

A molten salt reactor the size of a UPS truck could be used for 9 to 10 years between refueling, can use radioactive waste from earlier reactors, and be independent of the grid. The neat part is that a human operator is not needed as the reactor is self leveling and ramps up and down according to demand. It also needs no extensive safety systems, as, being liquid in the first place, it cannot meltdown and, in the event of a failure, it automatically, through a freeze plug, drains itself into storage canisters.

We can get rid of the grid, decentralize everything and there would be no more blackouts, ever.

Reply to  Charles Higley
August 23, 2020 8:46 am

Commercial reactors were never sources for military plutonium, and were never planned to be.
The military had their own reactors for that purpose.

Let’s build a couple and prove that they are safe before you start putting one in everyone’s backyard.

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 22, 2020 8:39 pm

Yes. My golf buddy is an engineer in the business. There are significant material issues to be overcome. But they’re being worked. Yes, decade or so I’d say (or perhaps never).

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  ColMosby
August 22, 2020 11:15 am

MMSR technology is a pure fantasy right now . . . but you have every right to dream that it is “right around the corner”.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  ColMosby
August 22, 2020 12:38 pm

ColMosby, Sir;
Every time you post this stuff, and it is “stuff”, I will invoke the 10-10-100 rule.
When there are 10 molten salt reactors of good size feeding into the grid, 10 more under construction, and 100 more financed and permitted, then folks will be aware of your vision of the future.
Until then “Hope is not a plan”

Further more, California needs electricity now.

Charles Higley
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
August 22, 2020 1:21 pm

Okay, that simply means that China and India will be there first, as they are working on it right now.
So, if the 10-10-100 occurs elsewhere, is it not a valid result?

Reply to  Charles Higley
August 22, 2020 8:04 pm

You know the saying never interrupt an enemy while they are making a mistake.

Reply to  Charles Higley
August 23, 2020 8:48 am

Did you not read the portion where he said research was being done?

Why are you so determined to start deploying before all the research has been finished?

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
August 24, 2020 10:21 am

I can solve California’s problems.

1) Fully develop the Salton Sea geothermal anomaly. There is about 2 GW of untapped potential.

2) Fully develop the Eagle Mountain energy storage project. That is 1.3 GW of energy shifting, turning intermittent solar into reliable power.

3) Extend the license for Diablo Canyon Nuclear to 2040. Re-open San Onofre. That’s about 4 GW added.

California is only 1-2 GW short of peak demand. These would solve the problem, and most of it can be implemented within 2-3 years.

Problem solved. At fairly low cost, using proven solutions.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  ColMosby
August 22, 2020 8:26 pm

ColMosby, Here’s where we are after 60 years of R&D for a suitable MSR alloy:
Hastelloy N has not been qualified for use in nuclear construction, and significant additional characterization would be required for Code qualification. …
… It is recommended that a systematic development program be initiated to develop new nickel alloys that contain a fine, stable dispersion of intermetallic particles to trap helium at the interface between the matrix and particle, and with increased solid-solution strengthening from addition of refractory elements.
With support from computational materials science tools, a speculative time frame for a down-selection program, using 20-30 kg heats, is about four to five years….

Note: then 10 plus years of testing the alloy, then a minimum of 20 years of pilot plant, then….

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  ColMosby
August 22, 2020 8:26 pm

ColMosby, Here’s where we are after 60 years of R&D for a suitable MSR alloy:
Hastelloy N has not been qualified for use in nuclear construction, and significant additional characterization would be required for Code qualification. …
… It is recommended that a systematic development program be initiated to develop new nickel alloys that contain a fine, stable dispersion of intermetallic particles to trap helium at the interface between the matrix and particle, and with increased solid-solution strengthening from addition of refractory elements.
With support from computational materials science tools, a speculative time frame for a down-selection program, using 20-30 kg heats, is about four to five years….

Note: then 10 plus years of testing the alloy, then a minimum of 20 years of pilot plant, then….

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 23, 2020 5:16 am

Oops sorry for the double posting.

August 22, 2020 10:29 am

CA Energy Policy is being operated like Jerry Brown’s Freeway Policy. Don’t build it. Jerry blocked freeway expansion with unending lawsuits claiming “global warming” and “particulate matter” eco-lawsuits. He reasoned that if he just let the freeways fall into disrepair and get clogged, then people would “get out of their cars”

CA leftist, eco-frauds, in our Supermajority leftist government have followed the same policy with our energy infrastructure. Don’t build it. If they don’t build enough reliable energy capacity … then people will “turn down their thermostats” or “turn up their thermostats” depending on the season. State policy makers are FORCING conservation on Californians. And if that wasn’t enough of a punch to the gut, then they also kicked us all in the balls (and Pu$$y) by increasing energy costs to the highest in the nation. You WILL conserve. The State mandates it.

Oh … and they’ve done the same thing with water

Leftist Statists are the Party of NO. NO. You can’t have what you want or need. Just NO.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Kenji
August 22, 2020 11:03 am

Kenji, well said. Perfect description of how we got here and where we are headed. How do we turn it around?

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 22, 2020 12:24 pm

Vote it out. This is the year we can turn it around. We need reliable 24/7/365 affordable energy being produced. Bring back coal and nuclear and natural gas.
Lets put solar and wind onto it’s own grid network delivering power to the growing EV market. They don’t need reliable power. When the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing and the batteries run out of juice, it’s time to park and go the rest of the distance by bicycle.

Reply to  Kenji
August 22, 2020 11:58 am

Kenji, I remember those times and how hated Brown’s Director of DOT, Adriana Gianturco, was. She may have been the most reviled woman in CA history. I-5 was essentially built except that sat uncompleted between Stockton and Sacramento for years, increasing travel time, wear-and-tear on cars and pollution as well. These days, however, several global warmists have passed her by on my list of leading numbskulls.

Reply to  Kenji
August 22, 2020 12:57 pm

They have a string of reports by world class electrical engineering companies going back 30 years that recommend what needs to be done in a properly planned manner. Politically however, they choose to follow the unsolicited reports of eco groups and windmill salesmen.

Reply to  Kenji
August 23, 2020 10:50 am

The power and growth of government is only in “no.” “Yes” means we do not need them (shock)!

August 22, 2020 10:30 am

“California’s headlong rush into a new dark age of unreliable electricity”

A rush into a technology still under development and not yet ready for the market. A case of activism trumps rational decision making.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Chaamjamal
August 22, 2020 11:06 am

Chaam, “A rush into a technology still under development”? I differ, wind, solar and battery storage are a proven unworkable technology for utility scale applications. Give it up.

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 22, 2020 1:18 pm

True. Grid scale battery technology does NOT exist to back up any meaningful amount of solar power. The world’s largest back-up battery, the Hornsdale power reserve in Australia, can supply 70 MW for only ten minutes or 30 MW for 3 hours. It cost roughly 100 million dollars (US). To back up 1,000 MW for 12 hours overnight (when it’s dark) ~would require a battery 133 times larger, costing as much as a nuclear power plant. Even that wouldn’t be nearly large enough to get the solar farm through a rainy period. So what does Hornsdale do? It buffers wind power long enough to bring a Natural Gas turbine online and charges when power is cheap, discharging when it’s expensive.

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 22, 2020 1:23 pm

Thank you Dennis, you statement is the truth. It should be proclaimed often and proved over and over by the undeniable facts coming from California.

From the late 1800’s to the mid 1900’s windmills were used to pump groundwater throughout much of America. But, following the REA electrifying much of America, as soon as adequate electricity was available the windmills were replaced by electric-powered pumps. We have known for almost a century the essential flaw of windmills–when the wind doesn’t blow, windmills cannot be used. Also, when the sun doesn’t shine solar simply does not work.

Honest people with at least an at least a tiny bit of knowledge of history, and the ability to step outside and see if the wind is blowing, know that wind power in any form and for any purpose is intermittent and thus unreliable.

Reply to  Leonard
August 22, 2020 5:54 pm

After driving back and forth across the good old US of A 2 times within the last year, I can state that there are STILL MANY wind driven stock tank pumps in operation and visible just from the major east/west Interstate highways.

There are many more in decay, however.

Charles Higley
Reply to  Chaamjamal
August 22, 2020 1:33 pm

Chaamjamal, no, it is not just a technology under development. Wind and solar will and always have the largest physical and environmental footprints, extensive infrastructure, ridiculous maintenance, require rare and unsustainable elements, use nonrecyclable materials, a relatively short half-life, diminishing productivity ion over time, and, best of all, unreliable, as the sun sets and the wind dies. Not ready for market? They will NEVER be ready for market.

Wind and solar are useful to the end user as a means of decreasing dependency on the grid, but

On an island or a sailboat, wind and solar are wonderful (been there, done that), but they are what they are and the users know them to be unreliable.

Batteries and other strategies for storing energy at the grid level just make the footprint of both energy sources even larger, more costly, and even more unsustainable, besides having even shorter half-lives than wind and solar devices.

The realities of science have to always be on the table when talking about the real world. Pretending that science will always find a work around does not mean that certain areas have real and strict limitations. One could build a superconducting toroid capacitor and store enough energy in it to drive an electric car from US one coast to the other, but if that capacitor is breached, you are looking at the equivalent of a small yield nuclear bomb event (there is really no such thing as a “small” nuclear bomb).

Steve Case
August 22, 2020 10:38 am

California… has the highest poverty rate of any state in America. When accounting for the cost of living, 18.1% of the state’s residents are living in poverty.

Wow! That’s one I didn’t know, and needs to be soundly publicized over the next 72 days.

Reply to  Steve Case
August 22, 2020 10:50 am

Yeah, the MSM will get right to it. Ha.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
August 22, 2020 11:17 am

jorge, Robert Bryce, the contributor, writing for Forbes should be expected to soon issue a retraction. Telling the truth about climate or energy is a sure-fire way to get blacklisted from publishing anything anywhere in the MSM. Makes it hard to make a living as a writer.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 22, 2020 12:52 pm

Likely he will continue:

Phil Rae
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
August 23, 2020 1:12 am

Thankfully, there’s absolutely NO chance that Robert Bryce will stop talking common sense on energy policy!!! I’ve followed his articles & publications for more than a decade.

He continues to be a bright light in the darkness and long may that continue.

Reply to  Steve Case
August 22, 2020 2:30 pm

The US has been breeding and importing a vast underclass since the early 1960’s. We have prefabricated Every economic incentive to do so … cheap, exploitable, labor … and aid to dependent children/families.

And we’re surprised when poverty rates explode like this? We’re surprised when drug deaths explode? We’re surprised when homelessness explodes? We’re surprised when health care costs explode? We’re surprised when critical natural resources are depleted?

When the US is completely overburdened with dependent citizens … there will be violence in the streets UNTIL a communist State replaces Freedom and the US Constitution. Or … we start handing out UBI. Either way … the USA goes bankrupt, as our GDP can no longer cover our debt … and everything collapses. Then … there will be no more “rich” right? Hahahaha hahah ha … you Marxists are so naive. PS … and if you believe “the environment” will become more pristine w/o a Capitalist USA? … then you can wallow in the filth you create

Reply to  Kenji
August 23, 2020 12:59 am

Kenji, agree with you completely. But on your point of US going bankrupt as GDP can no longer cover out debt. The Fed has a plan. Those who think inflation will magically take off because of the flood of money are mistaken. The Fed must keep interest rates near zero for as far as the eye can see, otherwise your scenario plays out. US debt servicing costs were $430B in 2007 prior to the last financial crisis when our debt was $9 Trillion. In 2019 it was $574B and out debt $23T so an increase of $144B will out debt went up $14T of 150%. And guess what, for fiscal year 2020 which ends in 5 weeks our debt servicing will be lower than 2019. The issue is rolling over debt but as long as people buy it we are good to go.

Reply to  jxpint
August 23, 2020 12:18 pm


Problem, jxpint, is that the U.S. monetary policy won’t fix the problem as more and more folks look to the state to provide more and more “stuff” that we “proles” used to have to provide for ourselves.

When the “wealthy” fly the coop, who will pay, borrow, invest, and then collect?

See this PR gal’s blog and some of her descriptions of life when the Soviets ruled and you had “free” things but lived according to the state’s dictates.

We are seeing now with the Covid dictates by government, so use that as an example, but magnify the enforcement aspects.

You lived where the state provided and studied at school as the state decided and you got a few rubles to trade according to your needs and position in the party and needs of the state.

As with many, jxpint, you are using the great American economic conditions of the last hundred years, even with the income tax. And Russia had no “income tax” in terms of expendable assets – the tax was loss of freedom.

The website was apparently created before the Olympics a few years back.

Gum sends….

August 22, 2020 10:44 am

It sadden n the one side, but being in 21th century, it’s so laughable.

August 22, 2020 10:47 am

I haven’t any doubt that Forbes’ fit of sanity will be soon retracted. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, hand-waving, and talk of how magic batteries and smart grids will save Calizuela eventually, someday, in the great by-and-by.

John Garrett
August 22, 2020 10:48 am

NPR has desperately attempted to cover up the real cause of the recent blackouts by use of a well-known propagandist tactic: THE BIG LIE.

Evidently, they believe it’s possible to fool all the people, all the time using the all-purpose “climate change” boogie-man.

Phillip B. Hill
August 22, 2020 10:49 am

California’s ability to provide electrical service to its customers is starting to compare to the incapabilities of India to provide electricity to its customers.

August 22, 2020 10:50 am

Actually the same is true in Australia where the greenest states such as South Australia have been able to keep the lights on only by using extension cords from the other states. Ironically in these strange COvid times, states have closed their borders to Victoria where we’ve had a second wave. Would be an interesting exercise if Victoria decided to cut supply to its South Australian neighbour. Ironically it might soon be not a matter of choice as Victoria is heading the same renewable way getting rid of baseload power making its electricity expensive as well as unreliable. Fortunately Victoria’s government has so stuffed things up that most high electricity demand industries have either moved or gone broke so natural demand is falling. But even this lesser demand won’t be able to be met in the future usually when there are heat waves or cold snaps when you actually need it most.
And people still vote for these guys.

August 22, 2020 10:54 am

While Pelosi ponders over gourmet ice cream.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Cat
August 23, 2020 7:30 am

And still trying to figure out that freight train analogy.

T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 11:04 am

Some help me please. Is CAs black out problem due to not having power available to match the load or because the grid is not capable of carrying the load needed to meet the demand? Thx.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 11:41 am

Demand was up, and the supply down. Double-whammy.

Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 11:42 am

Shifting to unreliable wind and solar naturally makes supply less reliable. Peak electricity demand is completely unrelated to power available from wind and solar, which falls to near zero when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Meanwhile, conventional, reliable power sources are being shut down, so can’t pick up the slack.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 11:54 am

It is mostly about insufficient power generation right now. However they have neglected their transmission grid over the last few decades, so even if they solved the supply problem, they have looming grid problems as they continue the push to convert everything to use electricity.

Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 22, 2020 2:03 pm

If I am not mistaken Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison went bankrupt and had to sell production assets during the early 2000s energy crisis (Enron etal energy manipulation due to typical unintended consequences of the way they deregulated electricity). Loss of revenue meant lack of maintenance of the grid.
I fear that renewable energy purchasing mandated will have a similar effect here in Texas. Green supliers take revenue from the traditional producers who will be unable to continuously generate, maintenance is being affected and there won’t be adequate production when peak usage eventually occurs.
Plus too many of those ignorant Kali people are migrating here increasing energy demand and voting blue!

Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 12:18 pm

Not having the power.

Gunga Din
Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 12:20 pm

What a tangled web they weave!
Before California mandated a certain percentage of power had to be “Green”, no real problems.
Then the mandate was passed.
Meanwhile, the power companies were sued because their transmission lines were blamed for wildfires.
Throw in the mania against “fossil fuels” has restricted the construction of “fossil fuel” backup power (which wouldn’t have been needed if older “fossil fuel” and nuclear plants were not shut down), some of CA’s power, like it’s water, comes from out of state … it’s a mess that resulted in “rolling brownouts”.
But it feels good.

Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 1:22 pm

Shoes, the CA transmission system is nominally capable of carrying the electrical power demanded during peak usage periods by industrial, commercial and residential customers. In the current CA situation, there is insufficient capacity of existing generation sources (nuclear, FF, large-scale hydroelectric, unreliables and interstate imports) to meet the power demands during the approximately 3-hour (6-9pm) period where demand is peaking while solar generation is falling off and wind generation is practically nonexistent due to atmospheric conditions during a heatwave. [NB: It is much more complex than this.]

Normal electric utility practice is to plan and operate the entire system (generation, transmission and distribution) such that reasonably foreseeable contingencies (known unknowns), “worst-case” generation or transmission system component outages, do not cause blackouts to any part of the system during maximum estimated peak load periods. CA and other jurisdictions use “demand-side-management” which cuts off specific larger loads (industrial and commercial mostly) during peak load periods. There are various schemes to compensate the owners of the facilities experiencing such expensive loss of service. Politically determined “demand-side-management” is a poor but widely used practice to avoid investing in sufficient generating and/or transmission infrastructure to meet the legitimate needs of electric power consumers. [NB: It is much more complex than this.]

So-called “smart meters” and “intelligent electric systems” allow politically regulated utilities to cut off electric service to anyone pretty much whenever the bureaucrats want. Always remember: Socialism allocates shortages; it does not meet the needs/wants of consumers as does free market capitalism.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 2:37 pm


Not enough power available

Poor planning

Or, exactly as planned

Depends who you talk to

JimH in CA
Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 22, 2020 2:44 pm

California typically relies on getting 30% of the non-solar day’s power from imports from eastern states.
Last week, the eastern states had a high demand due to the 100 deg temps there too. So, CA was 25% , or 10,000 mW, short on power in the 2 pm to 8 pm time frame, when solar goes past it’s peak output and declines to ‘0’.

You can scroll down to the ‘green leaf’ and look at past days supply, which recently was less than 20% fro wind and solar.
We will be even more short on power when the Diablo Cyn, 2,200 mW nuc. goes cold.

Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 23, 2020 8:53 am

The grid was capable of carrying the load, there wasn’t enough energy to go around.

Willem post
Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 23, 2020 11:00 am

The grid can handle those feed ins, aka load, but there was not enough feed in to meet demand.
So demand was curtailed by rolling blackouts, until it had decreased enough to equal the available feed ins.

This will repeat itself without fail, with or without COVID.

It is just elementary bookkeeping, that even some politicians can understand, but would never admit to in public, for fear of being labeled a DENIER

Pelosi likely is the greatest con artist aiding and abetting the stupidities of too many illegal Democrats in Kalizuela.

Reply to  T Gannett (AKA Shoes)
August 24, 2020 10:37 am

California demand was around 44 GW. To meet such a demand you need around 55 GW, to account for any plant tripping off and causing a widespread blackout. California has 76 GW. Should be plenty, right? But 27 GW is solar and 6 is wind. Wind has died off. And between 4 to 8 PM solar diminishes to nothing. That leaves you with 43 GW. 1 GW short. And they must maintain a reserve – again it is depending on every single power plant operating perfectly. So they are running consistently about 2-4 GW short of what they need. Just about what the San Onofre nuclear plant used to generate.

The grid can handle the load easily – it has handled larger loads and the 44 GW demand at this time of year is not unusual. But California has systematically eliminated reliable generation in favor of solar. So past 4 PM they start to face escalating problems – demand peaks and solar is dying out. Hence the rolling blackouts in the evenings. And they can’t import power because the surrounding states are facing similar issues.

Too much solar and not enough storage.

Gordon A. Dressler
August 22, 2020 11:11 am

Totally missing from all the government and utility calls to “reduce energy consumption to avoid rolling blackouts”: calls for all EV owners to stop charging their vehicles at home between the hours of, say, 8am to 10 pm PLUS disconnecting all public and private company-owned (e.g., Tesla) EV charging stations from the grid during these critical hours. These simple actions would likely lower peak demand by several thousand megawatt hours.

Glad to own an EV?

Harry Passfield
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 22, 2020 11:57 am

Solution! Therefore, not viable to those who would enact it.

Coeur de Lion
August 22, 2020 11:35 am

Yeah, but who is to police this diktat?

August 22, 2020 11:36 am

Enforcing the use of maximum attic insulation and painting all the roofs with IR reflective material would have made the state greener than the shit they’ve been wasting money on.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Prjindigo
August 22, 2020 1:05 pm

Attic insulation and related energy saving features** are great in single family houses. Multi-story apartments have to be approached differently. All in good time, I think.

**Older homes mostly have 3.5 inches of wall insulation [built with 2x4s ]. Current codes require 2x6s, that allow for 5.5 inches of insulation. CA building code may be different.

JimH in CA
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
August 22, 2020 4:00 pm

When we built an addition on our existing post and beam home; in order to pass the CA title 24 energy regs, we had to add 2 inches of spray foam in the walls, in addition to the 5 inches of glass insul for and R 30 . and 1 inch of foam with the 12 inches of glass in the rafters [ 2 x 14] to get R 45.
That allowed me to use a mini-split a/c unit with an EER of 13. Oh, and the floors had to have R30 in the crawl space…
So I spent $3,000 in added insulation to save a few $100 a year in electricity to run the a/c….dumb.
But that’s the CA way… reduce electrical load, no matter the cost to the homeowner.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
August 23, 2020 8:58 am

In more northern areas, 2x6s in the outer walls and R-50 in the attic has been common for years.
When it gets down to -30F outside, the difference between inside and outside gets close to 100F.
Compare that to the 20F difference when the outside temperatures hit 100F.

August 22, 2020 11:38 am

The standard leftist tactic is to implement policies which make any problem worse, then use that as an excuse to exert more control and double down on the same policies while blaming everyone but themselves. This is why inner cities have become hellholes, education has gotten worse every decade, crime is exploding, seasonal fires have become more damaging, and now energy is becoming far more expensive and unreliable at the same time. Yet voters are mesmerized by the leftist media into believing every lie that leftists put out. Leftist “journalists” as a group are dumber than rocks.

Stan Sexton
August 22, 2020 11:45 am

And electricity is going to get even more expensive if Proposition 15 is passed, which removes the “Commercial” part of Proposition 13. This will result in much higher tax valuations of utility-owned property, resulting in much higher taxes on generating stations, office buildings and other utility property. These higher taxes will effect the low and middle income even more. Vote NO on 15!

Reply to  Stan Sexton
August 22, 2020 12:45 pm

Unfortunately, it will be easy to convince the sheeple to support such a tax. Just tell them that someone else will be paying it.

August 22, 2020 11:56 am

Silicone Valley and it’s companies have ‘fleets’ of standby generators to keep the power flowing. While the rich and often ‘green’ can of course private jet their way out there to one of there other places.
If they were to ever ban those you see a very different picture.

August 22, 2020 12:12 pm

Think this is bad? It will be much much worse by 2025 when Diablo Canyon is forced to close.

Walter Sobchak
August 22, 2020 12:41 pm

“Renewable advocates claim that the unreliability of renewables can be overcome by smart grids.”

Sure. They won’t impose blackouts on a random are, they will just turn off your air conditioner by remote control. Problem solved.

Rud Istvan
August 22, 2020 1:22 pm

Wrote about the problems with California’s grid in essay California Dreaming, and why batteries are not the solution to renewable intermitency. Wrote about the likely future of nuclear in essay going nuclear. Both essays in late 2014 ebook Blowing Smoke.

At least for the US, the best present path forward is natural gas fueled CCGT. Those plants have an operating life of about 40 years, take only about 2.5 years to install greenfield, and have the lowest LCOE (best economics) at present. That provides 4 decades to seriously investigate the several gen4 nuclear prospects that exist, pick a couple to build at pilot scale to ‘debug’ the engineering and cost out at scale, then make decisions about what to build to replace CCGT when the time comes. China is doing this looking to supercritical coal replacement. The US is not, yet.

Joel O'Bryan
August 22, 2020 1:31 pm

“And the state’s consumers are going to be paying even higher prices for that pain.”

Higher prices: By intent and by design.

– The price premium for California’s unreliable electricity is money being fleeced mostly from the large middle class, every month, year after year.
– The grid and transmission lines were not being maintained.
– Capital expenditures are not being made for the necessary new reliable generation to replace those set for shutdown over the next 10 years.

Simple question every Californian needs to ask: Where are all those extra billions of S$$’s paid for unreliable electricity in California going?

Or more to the point: Into whose accounts ultimately see all of those billions$$$, fleeced from the middle-class, as a Return on Investment?

Answer: I call them the Green Slime. The GreenSlime are billionaires like Steyer, Bloomberg, Warren Buffet, and their hedge fund investment vehicles, along with the under-funded State-level public employee pension funds (CalPERS, CalSTRS) desperately in need of outsize ROIs.

Thius is why Bloomberg and Steyer and the politicized leadership at those public pension funds fund Democrats campaigns across all levels of government. They are using the electric bill of middle class California to line their pockets and correct decades of under-funded public pension funds.

The Climate Scam of course has nothing to do with climate or CO2, and everything to do with money and power. For the Green Slime it is simply a way to fleece the middle class, and for the Democrat politicians to not have to call those higher electric bills a taxation by the government. If effect, those higher monthly electric bills are a stealth tax to pay billionaires who support the Democrats staying in office with loads of campaign cash.

Tom Ferrell
August 22, 2020 1:57 pm

Only one, one hour blackout here. While I believe most any criticism of PG&E is justified, the weather events over the last week are unprecedented in the state. There is good reason to believe that the temperature experienced in Death Valley was the highest reliably recorded temperature ever on earth… 130F. Here at my Napa Valley house 15 miles from the cold P. ocean, 107 F. There were convective “heat bursts”, temperatures shooting up from 80F to 100F before sunrise at Travis AFB amid lightning and winds. Or fast moving massive roll clouds over Santa Cruz…bizarre. Not to mention 10,000 lightning strikes. I know Trump blames us for not “raking our forests”, but there are 33,000,000 acres if them….a lot of raking, so it is better to not build houses in them and let them regularly burn, reducing the fuel buildup as they did 200 years ago.

Al Miller
August 22, 2020 2:29 pm

It is stupendously stupid to suggest we can run power grids on unreliable power- full stop. It is only when the working people get angry enough this charade will stop. Shouldn’t take too long in California. I’m just glad I don’t live there, but can instead watch the the state implode as an example to the rest of the world.

Eric Vieira
August 22, 2020 2:45 pm

Concerning poverty in California:

California’s government is heading towards a tremendous catastrophe…

Pat from kerbob
August 22, 2020 2:46 pm

Canada needs california to collapse, at least short term, to provide incontrovertible evidence of the utter failure of Green renewable energy.
Out 3 time criminal prime minister Trudeau just shut down the government to stop review of his latest crime and he’s promising to come back in a month with massive new spending proposals, even using the words “build back better” coined by the green con artists

Sorry california but we need a concrete, public demonstration of the bankrupt nature of this ideology before it’s too late for the rest of us

You wanted to lead and show us the way, now is your chance

August 22, 2020 2:54 pm

California’s Dysfunctional Electricity Policies may lead to more Blackouts – Shuttering of in-state power plants, “leaks” the generation and emissions to other states. As a result of California’s intermittent electricity from wind and solar being unable to provide continuous uninterruptable electricity in-state, California imports more electricity than any other state as a result of “leakage” to other states from them to generate emissions for the generated electricity needs of California. At the same time, the states “green” religion remains adamantly against in-state coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro power plants. Can you see the conundrum the state is in?

August 22, 2020 4:22 pm

We, 8000+ PG&E billing meter customers, had a short (2 to 3 minutes) power outage yesterday (around 2:30 pm). I was listening to a CASIO presentation at the time:
Date Title Format
08/21/2020Audio – Special Session: Market Update Heat Wave Q/A – Aug 21, 202017117 KB

I had hoped to find out if Ivanpah’s output on the 14th during our black out was going to be picked up by PG&E at the PPA contract time of delivery (TOD) price of give or take $240 MUh, or was PG&E going to be paying Google and NRG the $1000 MUh noted in the day ahead market graphs.

With the power outage I never got back to the talk. Thanks for all the references in the post- it reminded me about the talk.

Kevin kilty
August 22, 2020 6:22 pm

I didn’t see any comment regarding the larger problem California poses to this point, so let me just say that this is not a problem that we can just confine to California. As long as California gets to shed their excess production on the rest of the Western grid, they will be putting pressure on the viability of all fossil fuel generators as far inland as western Wyoming.

Then, in order to reach their portfolio goals, they encourage plans for the construction of yet more wind farms clear to the Wyoming/Nebraska border. And I encourage people to go have a look to see current and future retirement of dispatchable power.

Trifecta of madness.

sky king
August 22, 2020 7:29 pm

Not only can’t CA handle a heatwave, but with many businesses shuttered – high rises, stadiums, restaurants, it can’t even handle a heatwave in the middle of a pandemic shutdown. Beyond stupid…

Serge Wright
August 22, 2020 8:19 pm

Ironically, this critique is exactly what Shellenberger was saying when he was censored by the same media outlet.

The big issue with RE is that is can only exist alongside fossil fuels, nuclear or standard hydro, where the legacy forms of generation are turned up and down to offset the irregualarities of RE. What is an important note in this article is the realisation that RE cannot be used to expand a grid or to retire existing legacy generation, which is why developing countries have not developed on RE, but have used mainly coal and gas and will continue to do so until the end of the century, unless nuclear options are provided.

Of course there is nothing new being flagged here, and the limitations of RE have been well understood before a single wind turbine or solar panel was deployed. The only issue is that the entire alarmist community is in denial of this obvious limitation and will seemingly press on until the entire grid collapses.

Smart Rock
August 22, 2020 8:47 pm

If the government of Mexico had an entrepreneurial bent (which I doubt), they could build a series of big nuclear power stations close to the California border, and they could sell baseload to the Golden State. They could have a few wind turbines around and pretend that it was all green and renewable so they could insert the “must take” clause into the purchase agreement.

Or they could license the private sector to do it (probably a better idea).

August 22, 2020 11:39 pm

Missing from analysis here is HOW a fossil fuel grid would have better handled this situation.

How would it have handled record demand, beating 2006 by 75% of a small power plant?

with exactly the same limits on out of state power and hydro?

Were there ever really the peaker plants to meet that level of demand? Would anyone have built the gas plant to cover that additional load?

Amos E. Stone
Reply to  griff
August 23, 2020 5:39 am

Of course, in 2006 San Onofre 2 and 3 were still running. That’s over 2GW of CO2 free electricity that could have been there still, and wouldn’t have gone AWOL when the sun went down. What was the gap – around 450MW? Which would have been cheaper? Building 2GW of wind turbines/solar farms or just keeping that plant going?

(I know it’s early in the US guys and gals – but, c’mon, I’ve got the popcorn ready)

Reply to  griff
August 23, 2020 9:02 am

A fossil fuel grid would have built more power plants as population, and hence demand, grew.

Loren C. Wilson
August 23, 2020 6:33 am

It doesn’t matter how smart the grid is, if you don’t have enough power, you have to cut people off. California’s idea of a smart grid was to buy excess electricity from the rest of the western states. In a big heat wave, the other states don’t have enough to spare. The more unreliables the other states acquire, the more reliable back-up they need, and the less they can send to CA. Texas (where I currently live) has a lot of windmills, but the wind doesn’t blow consistently or predictably. There are days when we are right at the edge of safety for the grid. No reserves will be sold to California when we are at our minimum.

Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
August 23, 2020 9:04 am

California doesn’t have any states to it’s west. All the states are either north or east.

States to the east, the sun is even further towards the horizon than it is in CA. As a result, when CA starts to see a big drop in power from the solar plants, the only states it can rely on for excess power are even further down that solar power curve.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  MarkW
August 23, 2020 4:54 pm

“the rest of the western states” was the statement, not states west of California. You are correct that importing power from PV arrays is usually not effective. Wind power can be produced when the wind blows, which includes the evening. The western electrical grid includes CA and covers all the states west of Texas, which is its own grid. In 2018, California imported about 24% of its electrical energy. I didn’t find data for 2019.

August 23, 2020 8:07 am

In the green utopia people will learn to not expect consistent electrical service when it is very hot, cold or dark.
That is really the whole point, a new sustainable way of life. Why should you expect electricity in a heat wave or in the winter? Just like travel and mobility, it will be limited to only the elite.

Steve Skinner
August 23, 2020 2:54 pm

“Smart Grid” is a euphemism for government has a remote switch to control every appliance and lightbulb in your house and businesd.

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