California Begs For More Electricity Amid Heatwave And Transition To Green Energy

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Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) called on the state’s electric grid operator in a statement Thursday to provide additional energy resources through the summer amid soaring electricity demand.

In their joint statement to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the two energy regulators urged the grid operator to use its tariff-based authority to procure additional resources for the months of July and August, along with the month of September if conditions do not improve.

“Summer has barely begun and we have already had repeated extreme heat events creating dangerous conditions and shattering records across the country,” the statement read. “Climate change is here and with increasing intensity that presents a host of new challenges we must collectively meet head-on.”

The request follows an unprecedented heatwave that began to spread across much of the western United States in late June, with at least 76 deaths reported in the region this week and temperatures in parts of California soaring to 100 degrees.

CAISO warned in a press release Sunday that rising temperatures and drought conditions created by the heatwave could lead to limited energy resources, adding that consumers should be prepared to reduce their electricity consumption. The grid has around 46,000 megawatts of available capacity, and usage is projected to peak at around 36,000 megawatts Friday.

CPUC on Thursday approved 11.5 gigawatts of new grid resources to address weather conditions and expected generator retirements. But energy experts said extreme heat and drought, reduced hydroelectric capacity and new challenges brought on by climate change would require finding additional power sources, according to KCRA.

California has also made dramatic strides to achieve its goal of carbon-free electricity and carbon-neutrality by 2045, according to The Orange County Register. But its transition toward green energy has been marked by roadblocks, such as in August 2020 when a similar heatwave led to rolling blackouts across the state.

The power outages raised questions about California’s growing reliance on solar and other green energy sources, which now make up about one-third of the state’s power, according to The Sacramento Bee. But Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom last year reaffirmed his commitment to green energy. (RELATED: Triple-Digit Heat Wave Baking Pacific Northwest Triggers First Rolling Blackout)

Republican California Assemblyman Jim Patterson, vice chair of the state legislature’s utility and energy committee, said in a video news conference Thursday that California shouldn’t be in the position of requesting additional energy resources, according to KCRA.

“We are now in a circumstance, when the state of California, the fifth-largest economy on the planet, now goes begging — hat in hand — to the world, to ship us all the electricity they can because we are running out of it,” he said.

Patterson added that California’s tenuous energy situation is “scathing rebuke of what this one-party rule has done” to the state’s grid. He argued that many residents “cannot afford and … can’t use” a reliable source of power.