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Newsom embraces dirty energy in bid to stave off blackouts

Politico|Wes Venteicher|August 30, 2023
CaliforniaEnergy Policy

Newsom is grappling with the same nuts-and-bolts challenges of running the electric grid as other blue-state officials in New York as well as the Biden administration. The pivot reflects the awkward reality faced by Newsom and other climate-minded governors: Politics moves far faster than the building of solar fields, wind farms and transmission lines, while power blackouts and electric bill spikes hit home immediately.


The California governor is focused on keeping the lights on even if it means reversing pledges to eliminate dirty and risky power sources.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned on shutting down Aliso Canyon, a gas storage facility that was the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history.

Now, five years later, his administration is poised to inject even more gas into the sandstone chamber 8,500 feet beneath north Los Angeles in a bid to stave off energy price spikes and power shortages.

He’s also blessed extensions of gas and nuclear power plants that were scheduled to be closed. Keeping the lights on takes precedence over California’s clean energy goals, at least for now.

Newsom is grappling with the same …

... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

The California governor is focused on keeping the lights on even if it means reversing pledges to eliminate dirty and risky power sources.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned on shutting down Aliso Canyon, a gas storage facility that was the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history.

Now, five years later, his administration is poised to inject even more gas into the sandstone chamber 8,500 feet beneath north Los Angeles in a bid to stave off energy price spikes and power shortages.

He’s also blessed extensions of gas and nuclear power plants that were scheduled to be closed. Keeping the lights on takes precedence over California’s clean energy goals, at least for now.

Newsom is grappling with the same nuts-and-bolts challenges of running the electric grid as other blue-state officials in New York as well as the Biden administration. The pivot reflects the awkward reality faced by Newsom and other climate-minded governors: Politics moves far faster than the building of solar fields, wind farms and transmission lines, while power blackouts and electric bill spikes hit home immediately.

“If there’s a blackout, it’s the governor’s fault,” said former Gov. Gray Davis (D), who was recalled in 2003 partly due to rolling blackouts and electricity price spikes during his term. “Certainly they don’t send you congratulations when you keep the power on, but ultimately they’ll hold the governor responsible for maintaining the grid.”

Newsom is scarred from not only the state’s bout with two nights of rolling blackouts in 2020, when energy demand spiked during a heat wave, but the memory of a political upset 20 years ago. He’s keenly aware of the political risks and the real-world consequences of outages that affect not just comfort and convenience but health, safety and the economy.

“If that comes at the expense of the lights staying on, you know, you have to be practical,” Newsom spokesman Anthony York said earlier this month of Newsom’s position on delaying the nuclear and Aliso closures.

The Newsom-appointed Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to approve the Aliso Canyon expansion, which would boost storage by two-thirds to nearly 69 billion cubic feet.

His administration also extended the life of three aging natural gas plants in Southern California last month and is helping keep Diablo Canyon, the state’s remaining nuclear plant, open despite his prior support as lieutenant governor for closing it.

Underpinning all of the extensions is a rapidly changing energy picture on multiple fronts. Extreme weather is becoming more common, producing dramatic swings in demand and extreme events such as wildfires and floods that can abruptly wipe out transmission.

At the same time, energy demand is climbing due to a push to electrify everything from cars to homes. And new sources of renewable energy are backed up for years in permitting bottlenecks.

“Climate change is making it harder to fight climate change,” said Patty Monahan, a California Energy Commission appointee, earlier this month during a meeting on extending the natural gas plants. “As we moved from a system that was really around how we just reduced demand for electricity to a system where we say ‘No, no, let’s scale up as fast as possible because that’s how we clean the air,’ it’s stressing our system. We are finding it really hard.”


Source:https://www.politico.com/news…

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