Rolling Blackouts Darken Golden State’s Shimmer

Recently, millions of Californians suffered under rolling blackouts amid soaring temperatures as electrical utilities struggled to meet skyrocketing demand. During daylight hours, California has a surplus of solar energy. But power demand remained high after sunset – higher than what could be generated.

This results in no small part from a state-legislated mandate that 60% of its electricity come from renewables by 2030. Understandably, that and green energy subsidies have worked against natural gas- and nuclear-fueled generation. The practical effect – blackouts during a heat wave – has been quite clear, leaving Californians simmering.

  • During a press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom reportedly said the transition away from fossil fuels has left California with a gap in the reliability of its energy system. He says the state must examine its reliance on solar power and how that fits into its broader energy portfolio.
  • The Mercury News (San Jose): “[A]s the state continues its historic shift away from fossil fuels like natural gas that provide consistent power toward cleaner sources like solar and wind energy that rise and fall with the weather and the sun, experts say the power grid has become more difficult to operate and more at risk of blackouts. … Not only are millions of people who are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic inconvenienced, but power shutoffs endanger public health, particularly elderly residents who can fall ill or die from heat stroke.
  • Wall Street Journal editorial: “Electricity blackouts are awful at any time, but especially during an extreme heat wave and for reasons that are man-made. That’s what millions in California have been enduring in recent days, and their plight is a warning to the rest of America about the risks of Green New Deal policies.”
  • California ISO Board Chairman David Olsen, on the need for more flexible power (which natural gas can provide) the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant due to shut down in the next few years: “We need to start now to get additional resources to cover the loss of Diablo Canyon.”

Natural gas provides reliable, clean and affordable fuel to generate electricity and is the primary reason the U.S. has reduced carbon dioxide emissions more than any other nation since 2000, according to the International Energy Agency.

The capacity of natural gas to start immediately and ramp up rapidly, its overall resilience and other qualities also make it an essential partner for the growth of intermittent renewable energy – an especially important point to folks living in the Golden State right now. Ernest Moniz, U.S. Energy secretary under President Obama, said natural gas “is the only reason California has survived” the times when renewable energy failed to reliably generate power.

  • Dustin Meyer, API director of Market Development: “What we have now is more than a decade’s worth of evidence showing that displacing coal with a combination of low-cost, natural gas and increasingly affordable, renewable energy is a fantastic winning recipe for rapid and significant emissions reductions.

These benefits can be global via exported U.S. natural gas – which has the potential to change the lives of nearly 1 billion people around the world without access to electricity and nearly 2.7 billion who still rely on biomass for indoor cooking and heating.

  • In India approximately 240 million people – equivalent to 70% of the U.S. population – do not have reliable access to electricity. In New Dehli, where 22 million people live, only about 5% of the population has access to air conditioning during summer, when the average temperature is 103 degrees.

Summer heat underscores the need for reliable power generation – in California, where they’re weathering rolling blackouts, and around the world where energy poverty translates into daily struggle. Natural gas is dependable, clean and economical – as the leading fuel in power generation in this country and in partnership with renewable energy, filling in when wind and solar are unavailable. Exported liquefied natural gas can provide game-changing opportunity for others around the globe.