ORIGINAL REPORTING: California Faces Emergency Reliability Moves To Prolong Nuclear and NatGas Power
Extreme Events Force CA Leaders to Face “Necessary Evils” to Protect Grid
Herman K. Trabish, July 27, 2022 (California Current)
Editor’s note: These emergency decisions are likely to be faced soon in many other states.
Growing concerns about California’s power system necessitates the recent extraordinary steps by legislators to safeguard reliability, a key member of the California Energy Commission told Current during a recent interview. Since California’s 2020 blackouts, state regulators have authorized new energy supply, but Gov. Newsom’s signing of AB 205/SB 122 June 30 will help meet additional projected urgencies, CEC Vice Chair Siva Gunda said. The measure allocates $5.2 billion for a Strategic Reliability Reserve Fund, which includes $550 million for a Distributed Electricity Backup Assets Account, and extends operations of environmentally threatening generating facilities.
By 2025, California may add 20 GW to 30 GW of nameplate capacity but unexpected factors beyond regulators’ control have slowed the rate of building, Gunda said. The possible “near term shortfall” from higher demand “could take three to five years to close,” he added.
Even if California catches up to previously planned additional resource targets, there are shortfall risks from regional heatwaves driving demand up or wildfires disrupting transmission access to out-of-state energy supplies. Those kinds of events threaten “California’s ability to build out the electrical infrastructure,” making “extraordinary near-term measures and substantive changes to mid-term energy policy,” necessary, AB 205 concluded.
In 2019, the CPUC authorized 3.3 GW of “backfill procurement” for coastal natural gas plants long scheduled for closure because of harms to ocean waters, said Gunda. And, in 2021, it authorized 11.5 GW of new supply by 2025 for the 2.2 GW Diablo Canyon nuclear facility retirement, other economic retirements, and load growth. Now, however, both the natural gas plants and Diablo operations could be extended.
Since 2020, California has faced accelerating reliability pressures from recurring peak demand crises, more severe climate projections and volatility, renewables supply chain constraints, interconnection delays, permitting issues, and a federal solar tariff import disruption, Gunda said. “Over the last two years, over 4 GWs new generation was added, which was almost 8 GW of nameplate clean energy resources, and the CPUC also expanded demand side management programs and further procurements in extreme weather and emergency reliability proceedings, Gunda added.
Because of the significant risk-from lagging procurement, the budget bills authorize spending for at least 5 GW of clean energy in 2022 and up to 10 GW more for 2025. The urgency to protect the state’s power system reliability goes beyond the state because “if the lights go off in California, momentum for the climate effort in the rest of the country could be at risk,” Gunda said… click here for more