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What Not to Do: California Energy Policy Serves As a Warning to Colorado

What Not to Do: California Energy Policy Serves As a Warning to Colorado

Just days after finalizing a future ban on the sale of gas-powered vehicles, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) sent out a bulletin Tuesday afternoon warning that an expected heat wave posed serious threats to the reliability of the state’s electric grid.

Starting tomorrow through Tuesday, California and the West are expecting extreme heat that is likely to strain the grid with increased energy demands, especially over the holiday weekend…

 

The ISO is taking measures to bring all available resources online. Restricted Maintenance Operations (RMO) have been issued for Wednesday, Aug. 31, through Tuesday, Sept. 6 from noon to 10 p.m. each day, due to high loads and temperatures across the state. During the RMO, market participants are ordered to avoid scheduled maintenance to ensure all available generation and transmission lines are in service.

 

The peak load for electricity is currently projected to exceed 48,000 megawatts (MW) on Monday, the highest of the year.

With adequate electric generation capacity in doubt, the demand is expected to be so high that the ISO is warning residents of the potential for blackouts and is preparing to call for “energy conservation” measures to be taken (i.e. telling people they can’t use power during a heat wave).

If weather or grid conditions worsen, the ISO may issue a series of emergency notifications to access additional resources and prepare market participants and the public for potential energy shortages and the need to conserve.

 

The power grid operator expects to call on Californians for voluntary energy conservation via Flex alerts over the long weekend.

 

During a Flex Alert, consumers are urged to reduce energy use from 4-9 p.m. when the system is most stressed because demand for electricity remains high and there is less solar energy available. The top three conservation actions are to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using large appliances and charging electric vehicles, and turn off unnecessary lights.

 

Lowering electricity use during that time will ease strain on the system, and prevent more drastic measures, including rotating power outages

The state just passed a ban on gas-powered cars, and now they’re telling residents not to charge their electric vehicles. Over 50 California cities (and counting) have banned natural gas, and now they’re telling residents not to use electrified appliances and air-conditioning.

Meanwhile, the state continues to scorn its existing natural gas and nuclear facilities despite their being the only two most reliable sources of generation that can fully support a heavily-electrified population. It’s a recipe for disaster.

When you choke out the supply of reliable generation capacity while simultaneously subsidizing the demand on an increasingly unreliable grid, looming blackout threats is what you’re going to get.

Colorado is not yet so far down this rabbit hole compared with California, but it is well on its way.

State regulators have already begun placing regulatory constraints on future natural gas generation, while the Colorado General Assembly just passed a bill last session that sets the stage for future building electrification. Traditional baseload plants continue to be retired and are slated to be replaced largely with intermittent renewable generation, while state lawmakers have thus far rejected efforts explore advanced nuclear to fill the gap in firm capacity.

There’s still time for course correction, however. Natural gas capacity in the state is still adequate and growing slightly, despite efforts to the contrary. The state’s gas fleet should be allowed to continue operating until its baseload generation can be adequately replaced with the only clean technology capable of doing so: advanced nuclear.

Colorado has a chance to be a true innovator in this regard and chart its own course toward a carbon-free future with an eye toward reliability. The state does not have to copy California on everything.

As the bulletin above goes to show, adopting California energy policies only gets you higher electric bills and blackout threats.