The odds are high that your power will go out this summer.
And the culprit most likely won’t be PG&E.
While it appears PG&E’s decades of squeezing its equipment replacement and maintenance budgets to maximize profits is once again triggering wildfires laying waste to vast segments of Northern California, your inability to charge your smartphone to watch video clips of Gov. Gavin Newsom brag that California is “roaring back” will be the fault of Sacramento.
Sure, they’ll blame it on climate change. Such an assertion, however, will be only partially correct.
That’s because the pending dark days ahead in August and September that experts are predicting when it comes to juice to power California are the direct result of inept leadership in Sacramento.
The rush to make the Golden State the green envy of the country was done with the depth of investment and understanding as old Central Planning Committees whose ineptness led to the economic collapse of the Soviet Union.
The coming power crisis is not the end result of being green at all cost.
Rather it is the hummingbird effect of our so-called state leaders zipping here and there to embrace and implement green initiative after green initiative.
There was no in-depth thinking — at least on the political level — of how to make green initiatives actually work without plunging the world’s fifth largest economy toward Third World status.
Per capita electricity use in California has been declining for years. That’s thanks to a host of low-hanging green initiatives ranging from upgraded insulation standards to energy efficient appliances and lightbulbs.
The United States Energy Information Administration notes that overall California has the lowest overall energy consumption per capita than any other state except Hawaii. As far as per capita electricity retail sales the Golden State is the lowest in the union.
California is also the second highest producer of hydro power behind Washington. At the same time 28 percent of the electricity used in California is imported from out of state.
It is clear drought ravages hydro production, solar doesn’t generate when the sun goes down, solar production is compromised by hazy skies whether it is clouds or smoke from wildfires, and you need wind to turn wind turbines.
The fact someone figured out the state might need some battery storage — the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) that oversees their power grid expects to bring in 1,400 megawatts of storage by summer’s end — is too little, too late.
Couple that with a few disturbing eventualities Sacramento in extolling the virtues of an idyllic 100 percent green world never planned for as they toss about edicts such as cutting off the sale of all new vehicles in California that emit emissions by the year 2035.
*Droughts significantly reduce hydro power production. On Wednesday, CAISO projected Oroville’s three massive power plants will stop generating electricity in August or September just as a power crunch is expected to slam the state. That didn’t even happen during the depth of the worst drought in the settled history of California that occurred in 2014-2015.
*Solar generation starts dropping off significantly in the late afternoon which is the hottest part of the day when power demands surge especially during heat waves.
*Wildfires generate smoking haze in many areas of the state where they are not burning to diminish solar production.
California’s incessant green march has been impressive. Recently leaders bragged 94.5 percent of all electricity generated within the state was from the renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro. The state is on target to eliminate imported electricity generated from out-of-state coal plants by 2026.
Yet it is clear that such a pure path is putting California’s economy in jeopardy not to mention the health of compromised individuals who depend on electrical devices to help keep them alive.
Newsom — whether it is fear of angering voters with a recall election hanging over his head or because he hasn’t swallowed every drop of green Kool-Aid — last week avoided blackouts in California by his emergency decrees that temporarily lifted restrictions on using gas and diesel fueled generators within the state.
But there is only so much wiggle room in the greening world of power generation in California.
Flex Power Alerts — a more soothing term than the phrase “prepare for the electricity to go out for a prolonged period” — are becoming as common in California as 90-degree days.
However, as the end of summer nears and reservoirs up and down the state plunge to record lows, it may be easier for CAISO to alert everyone on days when there is no chance of their power being cutoff.
California is now scrambling for more out-of-state power. Given the rest of the western United States is dealing with the same severe drought as California meaning their hydro production will be curbed as well, the odds of the state procuring more is slim to none.
No worries. CAISO last month got approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to essentially hijack electricity moving on transmission lines through California under contract from one state to another to avoid a complete collapse of the Golden State’s ability to deliver electricity to its 39.6 million residents.
The FERC decision clearly irked leaders in other western states such as Arizona. Not only will they be forced to deal with power shortages but they will have to buy it on the expensive spot market — most likely from coal-powered sources in the Midwest — and pass that cost onto their consumers.
Such a move isn’t fair. But this isn’t about being fair. It is a blatant move to avoid California from becoming a high-profile example on the 6 o’clock news of the consequences of green at all cost initiatives.
We need to be as green as possible without plunging California into Third World status or by breaking the back of the working class with unbearable costs.
Keep that in mind as Sacramento moves to eliminate the use of inexpensive natural gas to heat homes in favor of significantly more expensive and less effective green electricity.
One day we may look back fondly on this summer as we’re stuck in a sweltering high speed rail passenger car in the middle of nowhere between Fresno and Bakersfield due to there being no electricity in the late afternoon for the engine to suck up like the rail project is doing now with tax dollars.