California could see more blackouts this summer

The managers of California’s electricity system can’t promise they’ll be able to keep the lights on this summer, reports the Sacramento Bee.

California electricity providers have taken steps to procure more reliably reliable generating capacity, such as natural gas, and sought to procure import contracts from power plants in other states. By the end of August, California should have access to 3,500 megawatts of capacity that were not in place last year.

This will help reduce the Golden State’s chances of reliving last year’s rolling blackouts, but the grid operator warns that electricity supplies will be tight if a region-wide heatwave hits the southwest.

Still reeling from two nights of rolling blackouts during last August’s heatwave, state officials say they’ve fortified the power grid against more outages but acknowledge that another extraordinary surge in temperatures could spell trouble.

“If it’s really hot here and it’s really hot everywhere … things will really tighten up,” said Elliot Mainzer, president of the California Independent System Operator.

California is in a pickle because they continue to close down reliable power plants in favor of “reliably unreliable” sources of electricity, like solar panels and wind turbines. The graph below shows the amount of reliable capacity falling as the installed capacity of solar grows significantly from 2012 through 2019.

Even if California avoids blackouts this year, things will be perilous for the next several years, especially because Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is scheduled to retire its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo in 2025. The plant has 2,200 megawatts of capacity.

Closing the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant would be the dumbest possible energy strategy that California could pursue because it would reduce the reliability of the California electric grid, and increase carbon dioxide emissions, which California pretends to care about.