Library filed under Energy Policy from California
As California considers a 100% renewable-energy mandate, the state’s legislators should be asking what happens to California’s energy profile when the sun doesn’t shine and the winds don’t blow.
But CAISO concedes that curtailments and “negative pricing” is likely to happen even more often in the future as solar power production continues to grow, unless action is taken to better manage the excess electricity. Arizona’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of California’s largesse because it is next door and the power can easily be sent there on transmission lines. On days that Arizona is paid to take California’s excess solar power, Arizona Public Service says it has cut its own solar generation rather than fossil fuel power. So California’s excess solar isn’t reducing greenhouse gases when that happens.
Robert Michaels, an economics professor at Cal State Fullerton, is not as confident and predicts SB100 will lead to higher bills for ratepayers. “It’s going to be expensive. “We already know there are a lot of problems with reliability, just with the percentage of intermittent renewables that you have here (in California). And until, and probably not even after, we get a lot more in the way of usable battery storage or some way of storing this stuff, it’s simply not going to be feasible.”
The path to an all-renewable electrical grid would mean major technological advances and upgrades, experts say. Arne Olson, partner at the international energy consulting firm E3, said the state would have to diversify its renewable portfolio. Building solar farms can be expensive and take up lots of land, and federal restrictions have banned wind farms from prime desert sites.
An analysis of CAISO data from 2011 through mid-2016 by consultancy ScottMadden reveals that California has largely exceeded its 2013 projections for lower net loads and higher ramps in energy demand. These changes are occurring in the wintertime too, another season that’s light on air conditioning load. In addition, the deepest drops are happening on weekends, not weekdays.
The plant's operators and the environmental groups who orchestrated the shutdown intend to fill the energy gap left by Diablo Canyon's closure with wind and solar power, as well as conservation initiatives. Even if they make good on those promises, the transition will come at a high cost -- particularly to low-income Californians already struggling to keep their lights on.
“There is a regressive nature to some of these things,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday, noting that more than 1 million state households spend more than 10% of their income on energy. “We have to be sensitive to issues relating to energy costs.” ... renewable energy goals will require going far beyond putting up new wind turbines and solar array farms.
There remains “a lot that is actually beyond PG&E, to be worked out at the California Public Utilities Commission, California ISO, and other California discussions,” says PG&E’s Strauss. “If action occurs too late, then there may be some challenge to the reliability of the system,” he says. “
So, Casey is proposing California join up with its neighbors. Instead of having lots of electric grids across the West, each doing their own thing, there would be a larger regional grid, sharing power across state lines. When California has too much solar power, neighboring states would buy it, preventing California from having to switch off the solar farms.
The Energy Commission said its jobs number is based on dollars spent and doesn’t take the type of project into account. Johnson said the slow results show the oversight board should have gotten involved much earlier. “They should have been overseeing all stages of this project, not just waiting until the money’s gone and seeing where it went,” Johnson said.
"Nobody's going to break ground on any big new solar projects right now — utilities want to see how farms coming online this year fit into the grid, and developers are waiting for more certainty about state policies and federal tax credits." Utilities had been willing to pay more because many states require them to derive a significant percentage of their power from renewables, but now utilities are on track to meet those requirements, giving them less incentive to buy higher-priced solar energy.
Some utility officials warn, however, that the only guarantee is that ratepayers will be spending a lot. The commission's goals, while laudable, "could cost up to $3 billion with uncertain net benefits for customers," Southern California Edison declared in a filing. But regulators are desperate to move past the status quo. Already, power grid operators in some states have had to dump energy produced by wind turbines on blustery days because regional power systems had no room for it. Officials at the California Independent System Operator, which manages the grid in California, say renewable energy producers are making the juggling act increasingly complex.
"Suddenly, you look up and there are literally hundreds of millions of dollars going into investments that produce marginal benefits," said state Sen. Rod Wright (D-Inglewood), a member of the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. "You know the tale of Robin Hood? Well, this is robbing the 'hood," he said. "You are taking from poor people to give to rich people." ..."We are moving in the direction of spending $2.5 billion per year on energy efficiency and alternative-energy programs."
It is challenging for Cal ISO to manage the big swings in solar and wind power due to intermittency. Solar power spikes when the sun rises in the morning and throughout the afternoon, but drops at night, while cloud cover and other variables can also affect it. California’s wind resources climb in the evening but fall in the morning, he said. Cal ISO has been increasingly forced to ramp up power — on Sept. 30, 2013, for example, it spiked power by 6,500 MW in a three-hour period. By 2020, the ramps will more than double to 13,500 MW, he predicted.
The report forecast that in 2020, the policy of "net metering" would cost $1.1 billion a year. It will shift about $359 million in costs a year from customers with solar panels to other ratepayers. Residential customers who have no solar panels would bear about $287 million of those costs.
Starting in a couple of weeks, the hundreds of companies subject to California's strict curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions will have a new way to meet the regulations. They'll be able to buy "offset" credits generated by dairy farms and others who have managed to reduce their own carbon emissions.
Though the Obama administration has recently renewed its commitment to approve more wind facilities on public lands as part of the Climate Action Plan it released this week, a new study indicates that wind development in California has far fewer benefits than it does elsewhere in the United States.
In short, California Democrats are proving that the real point of cap and trade is to give politicians another revenue stream for income redistribution while dodging accountability for raising taxes. That's worth keeping in mind when liberals resurrect the scheme for the entire U.S.
Many city representatives say that they are unlikely to give any go-ahead that would effectively enroll customers, who would have the option to opt out, without seeing final rates and having a clearer idea of where the program will get its electricity and how green it will be. ...Benefits, including local energy projects that could create jobs, are "intriguing," Kyes said. "But there really isn't any information yet that shows that's more than talk."
The upshot is that millions of Californians could soon experience power outages. As the state derives more of its electricity from renewables, it needs more "peak" gas-fired plants that can ramp up to meet demand when the sun isn't shining and wind isn't blowing-namely during dawn and dusk. Otherwise, rolling blackouts could ensue. Nobody knows exactly how much flexible power is needed to ensure a reliable electric supply.