California is producing so much green energy that it is forced to pay other states like Arizona to take its excess solar-generated electricity.
That arrangement, according to a Los Angeles Times report, exists so that the Golden State can “avoid overloading its own power lines.”
The Times explains that “[t]he number of days that California dumped its unused solar electricity would have been even higher if the state hadn’t ordered some solar plants to reduce production — even as natural gas power plants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, continued generating electricity.:
The Times also credits California with “dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years.”
But that is only half the story.
California does not have a single entity that controls energy policy statewide, which has led to a two-track approach — one toward 100% renewable power, and the other that relies on fossil fuel as the only reliable power source.
In spite of solar power becoming so much cheaper and more efficient, electricity in California costs on average 50% more than the national average. A big part of that cost increase is due to California’s historic push toward renewable sources of energy, with a goal of producing one-half of the state’s energy needs by 2030.
With the improvements in solar in particular, the renewable targets seem much more likely to come to fruition — but the utility companies persist in building out more natural gas plants, keeping costs high in order to recoup their investments.
Senate Leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) told the Times he opposes more fossil fuel plants, and has introduced legislation to reach the 2030 target by 2025, with a target of 100% by 2045.
Likewise, environmentalists are unhappy with the continued reliance on fossil fuels, and are pressing for the cancellation of all eight of the state’s already-approved, pending natural gas plants.
Ordinarily, in a healthy, market system, a glut of excess supply — green power or anything else — would lower prices. Supply and demand are a powerful economic forces, but the laws of economics don’t apply to the California energy grid.
At times of peak demand in the summer, when almost everyone is running air conditioners, transmission lines can become overloaded. That is why California utilities and regulators claim that new gas-fired plants are needed closer to big cities.
On top of that, the state needs multiple electricity sources — and more importantly, reliable ones — for when the sun fails to shine and the wind does not blow.
The irony of California’s “green waste” problem is that when California sells excess green power to states like Arizona, the recipient states cut back on buying renewable power, and more greenhouse gas emissions result —defeating the whole purpose of the state’s renewable energy mandates in the first place.