California’s Electrical energy Goals Nonetheless Want Herbal Fuel

Skyline of San Francisco at dusk from Treasure Island

</div> </div> <p>Already requiring 33% renewables by 2020 and 50% by 2030, California&nbsp;Governor Jerry Brown just signed SB 100, mandating that 100%&nbsp;of the state’s electricity comes from&nbsp;&quot;carbon-free&quot; sources by 2045, largely leaning on renewables like wind and solar.&nbsp;This truly is the&nbsp;Golden State’s energy challenge of a lifetime.</p> <p class="tweet_line"><span class="tweet_quote"> <a href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fjudeclemente%2F2018%2F09%2F14%2Fcalifornias-electricity-dreams-still-need-natural-gas%2F&amp;text=Renewables%20now%20account%20for%20almost%2033%25%20of%20California%27s%20electricity" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fjudeclemente%2F2018%2F09%2F14%2Fcalifornias-electricity-dreams-still-need-natural-gas%2F&amp;text=Renewables%20now%20account%20for%20almost%2033%25%20of%20California%27s%20electricity">Renewables now account for almost 33% of California’s electricity<span data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fjudeclemente%2F2018%2F09%2F14%2Fcalifornias-electricity-dreams-still-need-natural-gas%2F&amp;text=Renewables%20now%20account%20for%20almost%2033%25%20of%20California%27s%20electricity"></span></a></span>&nbsp;&nbsp;And <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2018/06/01/keeping-californias-great-solar-boom-in-perspective/" target="_self" data-ga-track="InternalLink:https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2018/06/01/keeping-californias-great-solar-boom-in-perspective/">solar power will remain the heart</a> of California’s clean energy push (particularly rooftop solar), with the state generating&nbsp;about 45% of all U.S. electricity that comes from that big bright yellow thing in the sky.&nbsp;&nbsp;Today, solar is over 12% of California’s electricity generation, versus just 2% back in 2013.</p> <p>Yet, as <a href="https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=CA" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=CA">overwhelmingly</a> a natural gas- and oil-based state, the challenge put forth by California is an immense one. Even on the windiest and sunniest days, these renewables are intermittent, typically available only around <a href="https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf">35% of the time</a>.&nbsp;In literally a matter of minutes, winds can disappear or&nbsp;a cloud can block out the sun. For example, quite inconveniently, solar is naturally fading as an energy source&nbsp;when residents are returning home from work at 6 pm, right when electricity is used most.</p> <p> </p> <p>It’s a constant chore for&nbsp;operators to balance these intermittent resources on the grid, so it’s clean and flexible natural gas that usually compensates during the lull times. Again, natural gas may come in third on the &quot;loading order&quot; of power behind efficiency and renewables, but gas is often deployed first because it’s the most predictable and reliable of the three.&nbsp;This necessity to use more gas to backup wind and solar is why California’s regulators <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/California-must-retain-control-of-its-electric-12973810.php" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/California-must-retain-control-of-its-electric-12973810.php">have wisely forced</a> troubled gas storage facility in the Los Angeles metro area to remain open despite public opposition.</p> <p>Since the electricity crisis of 2000-2001, about <a href="https://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/California/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/California/">66%</a> of new generation capacity in California has been natural gas, peaking plants to compensate for the ups and downs of renewables.</p>

California is still mostly a gas state.Data source: California Energy Commission

</div> </div> <p>Too much wind and solar can arise unpredictably and&nbsp;overwhelm the grid – especially true in&nbsp;the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, when California’s air&nbsp;conditioners aren’t needed as much.&nbsp;Flooding the grid with too much power and not enough demand can ignite system failure,&nbsp;forcing operators to curtail renewable power.&nbsp;This &quot;clean power&quot; oversupply that can’t be utilized has&nbsp;become <a href="http://www.caiso.com/informed/Pages/ManagingOversupply.aspx" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.caiso.com/informed/Pages/ManagingOversupply.aspx">increasingly common</a> and problematic for a state seeking to deploy renewables at all costs. &quot;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaellynch/2016/02/19/negative-electricity-prices-are-not-a-sign-of-renewable-success/#23ec7e8a3806" target="_self" data-ga-track="InternalLink:https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaellynch/2016/02/19/negative-electricity-prices-are-not-a-sign-of-renewable-success/#23ec7e8a3806">Negative Electricity Prices Are Not A Sign Of Renewable Success.</a>&quot;</p> <p>The electricity created can be stored in batteries or other technologies and/or&nbsp;shared with neighboring states. A regional Western grid would be of great benefit for solving this problem, but California itself just dropped <a href="https://www.tdworld.com/overhead-transmission/california-legislation-drops-bill-expand-western-power-grid" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.tdworld.com/overhead-transmission/california-legislation-drops-bill-expand-western-power-grid">a bill</a> to eliminate&nbsp;<span>barriers between the 38 independent systems across the Western states. Ouch.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>And although California has mandated that&nbsp;utilities install energy storage, the technologies aren’t developed enough to displace more reliable natural gas. Indeed, the &quot;battery storage revolution&quot; that has been promised to us has been &quot;imminent&quot; for not just decades, but really centuries. &quot;<a href="https://sites.google.com/site/johnjohnindustrialrevolution/-invention-name" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://sites.google.com/site/johnjohnindustrialrevolution/-invention-name"><span data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://sites.google.com/site/johnjohnindustrialrevolution/-invention-name">Count Alessandro&nbsp;</span>Volta, was the person who built the first electric&nbsp;battery. He showed it to Napoleon, who was the emperor at the year of&nbsp;1800</a>.&quot;</p> <p>To illustrate: although they are now being pushed as the inevitable kings of the future, don’t forget that electric cars have actually drastically devolved. Today, electric cars are less than 1% of all U.S. cars, compared to&nbsp;<a href="https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/25/38-percent-american-cars-electric-1900/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/25/38-percent-american-cars-electric-1900/">38% way back in 1900</a>. I’d advise against assuming that our energy future belongs to a technology that has already been discarded.</p> <p>Batteries today store just&nbsp;several hours worth of electricity, so gas plants as the backup will remain essential.&nbsp;As such, California has been rethinking the way in which gas plants are compensated so <a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611110/californias-rooftop-solar-rule-is-a-pricey-path-to-emissions-reductions/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611110/californias-rooftop-solar-rule-is-a-pricey-path-to-emissions-reductions/">subsidies</a> for renewables don’t make them&nbsp;uneconomical and retire prematurely.&nbsp;As Commissioner Liane M. Randolph, of the California Public Utilities Commission, says: &quot;<a href="http://In%20daily%20life,%20the%20critical%20role%20of%20these%20gas%20plants%20often%20goes%20unnoticed." target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://In%20daily%20life,%20the%20critical%20role%20of%20these%20gas%20plants%20often%20goes%20unnoticed.">In daily life, the critical role of these gas plants often goes unnoticed</a>.&quot;</p> <p>The &quot;resource adequacy&quot; market to help ensure grid reliability is key as well.&nbsp;Power plants get payments for being available to ensure the grid can function reliably, but some argue they aren’t enough. This has <a href="https://www.utilitydive.com/news/pges-landmark-energy-storage-projects-snagged-by-pushback/530007/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.utilitydive.com/news/pges-landmark-energy-storage-projects-snagged-by-pushback/530007/">created a debate</a>&nbsp;over one of Calpine’s gas plants that got extra payments&nbsp;from grid operators to remain open.</p> <p>But, let’s&nbsp;be as clear as possible for a state where policymakers enjoy&nbsp;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2015/04/26/californias-imported-oil-problem/#258417261ed5" target="_self" data-ga-track="InternalLink:https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2015/04/26/californias-imported-oil-problem/#258417261ed5">life in a fantasy world</a>: more natural gas isn’t a bad thing. In fact,&nbsp;thanks to gas, the U.S. is cutting carbon emissions faster than any other nation on Earth. More gas is the main reason why&nbsp;CO2 emissions in the U.S. power sector are at their <a href="https://www.realclearenergy.org/articles/2018/07/06/more_natural_gas_is_slashing_us_co2_emissions_110310.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.realclearenergy.org/articles/2018/07/06/more_natural_gas_is_slashing_us_co2_emissions_110310.html">lowest levels since 1985</a>.</p> <p>And California’s 100% &quot;carbon-free&quot; target doesn’t mandate only&nbsp;renewable energy. Carbon capture technologies will be increasingly&nbsp;instrumental in meeting climate change goals, given the sheer irreplaceably of fossil fuels around the world. I’m a huge fan of localized, smaller-scale solutions such as&nbsp;distributed power but these will indeed bring about more options for natural gas use.</p> <p>We do know that&nbsp;California needs better planning: &quot;<a href="https://www.utilitydive.com/news/california-has-a-100-clean-energy-goal-but-not-the-laws-to-get-it-there/531889/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.utilitydive.com/news/california-has-a-100-clean-energy-goal-but-not-the-laws-to-get-it-there/531889/">California has a 100% clean energy goal, but not the laws to get it there</a>.&quot;&nbsp;The closures of nuclear San Onofre&nbsp;Generating Station in Southern California and&nbsp;Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in Northern California will surely make &quot;carbon-free&quot; goals that much harder. My&nbsp;<em>Forbes</em> colleague Michael Shellenberger just&nbsp;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2018/09/11/had-they-bet-on-nuclear-not-renewables-germany-california-would-already-have-100-clean-power/#4da1c47e0d44" target="_self" data-ga-track="InternalLink:https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2018/09/11/had-they-bet-on-nuclear-not-renewables-germany-california-would-already-have-100-clean-power/#4da1c47e0d44">reported</a> on California’s mistake of obsessing over renewables, not nuclear power, which has&nbsp;drastically increased costs and blocked climate change goals.</p> <p>Ultimately, the future for renewables remains more challenging than most may realize. Contrary to what you keep hearing, they simply won’t be handed the energy future.&nbsp;Beyond the ongoing erosion of sweet spots, where incremental&nbsp;builds for wind and solar become more difficult (many of their best utility-scale locations have already been picked), the increasing need for&nbsp;upkeep will slow new builds as well. Mostly going unreported of course, &quot;<a href="https://www.chron.com/business/energy/article/Wind-producers-shift-spending-to-operations-and-13217995.php" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.chron.com/business/energy/article/Wind-producers-shift-spending-to-operations-and-13217995.php">the North American wind industry will reach a turning point in three years when the industry begins to spend more on operations and maintenance than it spends on installing new wind turbines</a>.&quot;</p> <p>These are underrated problems for&nbsp;more renewables not just in California but nationally. <span class="tweet_quote"> <a href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fjudeclemente%2F2018%2F09%2F14%2Fcalifornias-electricity-dreams-still-need-natural-gas%2F&amp;text=Indeed%2C%20natural%20gas%20remains%20a%20safe%20bet%20in%20California%20for%20as%20far%20as%20we%20model" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fjudeclemente%2F2018%2F09%2F14%2Fcalifornias-electricity-dreams-still-need-natural-gas%2F&amp;text=Indeed%2C%20natural%20gas%20remains%20a%20safe%20bet%20in%20California%20for%20as%20far%20as%20we%20model">Indeed, natural gas remains a safe bet in California for as far as we model<span data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fjudeclemente%2F2018%2F09%2F14%2Fcalifornias-electricity-dreams-still-need-natural-gas%2F&amp;text=Indeed%2C%20natural%20gas%20remains%20a%20safe%20bet%20in%20California%20for%20as%20far%20as%20we%20model"></span></a></span></p>

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Skyline of San Francisco at nightfall from Treasure Island

Already requiring 33% renewables via 2020 and 50% via 2030, California Governor Jerry Brown simply signed SB 100, mandating that 100% of the state’s electrical energy comes from “carbon-free” resources via 2045, in large part leaning on renewables like wind and sun. This actually is the Golden State’s power problem of a life-time.

Renewables now account for nearly 33% of California’s electrical energy  And solar energy will stay the guts of California’s blank power push (specifically rooftop sun), with the state producing about 45% of all U.S. electrical energy that comes from that massive shiny yellow factor within the sky.  These days, sun is over 12% of California’s electrical energy era, as opposed to simply 2% again in 2013.

But, as overwhelmingly a herbal gas- and oil-based state, the problem put forth via California is an immense one. Even at the windiest and sunniest days, those renewables are intermittent, normally to be had handiest round 35% of the time. In actually a question of mins, winds can disappear or a cloud can block out the solar. As an example, somewhat inconveniently, sun is of course fading as an power supply when citizens are returning house from paintings at 6 pm, proper when electrical energy is used maximum.

It is a consistent chore for operators to stability those intermittent sources at the grid, so it is blank and versatile herbal gasoline that normally compensates throughout the lull instances. Once more, herbal gasoline would possibly are available 3rd at the “loading order” of energy in the back of potency and renewables, however gasoline is ceaselessly deployed first as a result of it is the maximum predictable and dependable of the 3. This necessity to make use of extra gasoline to backup wind and sun is why California’s regulators have properly compelled bothered gasoline garage facility within the Los Angeles metro space to stay open in spite of public opposition.

For the reason that electrical energy disaster of 2000-2001, about 66% of recent era capability in California has been herbal gasoline, peaking crops to make amends for the americaand downs of renewables.

California remains to be most commonly a gasoline state.Knowledge supply: California Power Fee

An excessive amount of wind and sun can stand up unpredictably and crush the grid – very true in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, when California’s air conditioners are not wanted as a lot. Flooding the grid with an excessive amount of energy and now not sufficient call for can ignite gadget failure, forcing operators to curtail renewable energy. This “blank energy” oversupply that cannot be applied has change into an increasing number of not unusual and problematic for a state searching for to deploy renewables in any respect prices. “Unfavorable Electrical energy Costs Are Now not A Signal Of Renewable Luck.

The electrical energy created can also be saved in batteries or different applied sciences and/or shared with neighboring states. A regional Western grid could be of significant get advantages for fixing this downside, however California itself simply dropped a invoice to do away with limitations between the 38 unbiased techniques around the Western states. Ouch. 

And even supposing California has mandated that utilities set up power garage, the applied sciences are not advanced sufficient to displace extra dependable herbal gasoline. Certainly, the “battery garage revolution” that has been promised to us has been “drawing close” for now not simply a long time, however in reality centuries. “Rely Alessandro Volta, was once the one who constructed the primary electrical battery. He confirmed it to Napoleon, who was once the emperor on the yr of 1800.”

As an instance: even supposing they’re now being driven because the inevitable kings of the longer term, do not disregard that electrical automobiles have if truth be told significantly devolved. These days, electrical automobiles are lower than 1% of all U.S. automobiles, in comparison to 38% long ago in 1900. I might advise towards assuming that our power long run belongs to a era that has already been discarded.

Batteries as of late retailer simply a number of hours price of electrical energy, so gasoline crops because the backup will stay very important. As such, California has been rethinking the best way during which gasoline crops are compensated so subsidies for renewables do not cause them to uneconomical and retire in advance. As Commissioner Liane M. Randolph, of the California Public Utilities Fee, says: “In day by day existence, the vital function of those gasoline crops ceaselessly is going overlooked.”

The “useful resource adequacy” marketplace to lend a hand be certain grid reliability is essential as neatly. Energy crops get bills for being to be had to verify the grid can serve as reliably, however some argue they are not sufficient. This has created a debate over certainly one of Calpine’s gasoline crops that were given further bills from grid operators to stay open.

However, let’s be as transparent as imaginable for a state the place policymakers experience existence in a fable international: extra herbal gasoline is not a nasty factor. If truth be told, because of gasoline, the U.S. is slicing carbon emissions quicker than another country on Earth. Extra gasoline is the primary reason CO2 emissions within the U.S. energy sector are at their lowest ranges since 1985.

And California’s 100% “carbon-free” goal does not mandate handiest renewable power. Carbon seize applied sciences might be an increasing number of instrumental in assembly local weather alternate targets, given the sheer irreplaceably of fossil fuels around the globe. I am an enormous fan of localized, smaller-scale answers akin to allotted energy however those will certainly result in extra choices for herbal gasoline use.

We do know that California wishes higher making plans: “California has a 100% blank power objective, however now not the regulations to get it there.” The closures of nuclear San Onofre Producing Station in Southern California and Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in Northern California will unquestionably make “carbon-free” targets that a lot more difficult. My Forbes colleague Michael Shellenberger simply reported on California’s mistake of obsessing over renewables, now not nuclear energy, which has significantly greater prices and blocked local weather alternate targets.

In the long run, the longer term for renewables stays more difficult than maximum would possibly understand. Opposite to what you stay listening to, they only may not be passed the power long run. Past the continuing erosion of candy spots, the place incremental builds for wind and sun change into harder (many in their highest utility-scale places have already been picked), the expanding want for repairs will sluggish new builds as neatly. Most commonly going unreported in fact, “the North American wind business will succeed in a turning level in 3 years when the business starts to spend extra on operations and upkeep than it spends on putting in new wind generators.”

Those are underrated issues for extra renewables now not simply in California however nationally. Certainly, herbal gasoline stays a secure guess in California for so far as we style

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