CA Energy Commission Member: We Should ‘Triple Down’ on Renewables, But We’ll Need Programs to Shut off Appliances, Turn Down AC

On Thursday’s edition of “CBS Prime Time,” Siva Gunda, a public member of the California Energy Commission said that the state must “double and triple down on building the renewables and clean energy resources” but will need more storage and also needs load reduction programs that will automatically lower air conditioning and stop appliances.

Gunda said, “What we have observed over the last several days is that the clean energy resources, collectively, [have] been performing as we expect them to. But the tight grid conditions we have been experiencing in California [are] really about the historically high loads. So, typically, at this time of the year, we look at about a 45,000-megawatt load. And what we experienced on Tuesday was a 52,000 megawatt-load, which is over 7,000 megawatts higher than what we would anticipate. And that 7,000 is higher than the entire peak load of…the Los Angeles power district as a whole.”

Host John Dickerson then asked, “So, what does that — what then are we supposed to conclude, is it that the move to renewables is great and that worked, but if we’re in a climate change environment here where we’re talking about…52,000 megawatts, then maybe renewables are great, but fossil fuels are going to have to still be a very big part of the mix? Or is it possible, through renewables, which might be more easy to access in these crisis moments, that that’s the future strategy for what looks like a challenge that’s going to come back again and again?”

Gunda responded, “I think we are, first of all, going to acknowledge that we’re experiencing a new normal and working on developing the necessary cushion that is necessary for carrying us through these extraordinary moments. We believe that, on the top of the planning standards we currently have, we need to hold about 10% of additional measures in our pockets to ride through these emergencies. Coming back to your question of how does this fit with the renewable energy transition, the clean energy transition, and the fossil — so the big question here is, we need to double and triple down on building the renewables and clean energy resources as quickly as we can. I think it’s important to note that the question is not really about how fast we are moving and if we should be moving really fast, but about really addressing the climate change by moving as fast as we can bringing clean energy resources and not adding to the climate problem.”

Dickerson then asked if renewables can handle emergency situations better than fossil fuels.

Gunda answered, “The problem right now is really what we call the net peak problem, or when the solar really goes down, and you still have a substantial load being carried because of the air conditioning load. So, really, it’s about deploying a large amount of storage very quickly to balance the loading of the solar, and as the wind comes up, along with offshore wind, you really have to balance that part with storage. So, that’s the equation right now, how do you deploy storage as quickly as you can. But, on the top of that, given the volatility that heat will produce and these extraordinary events produce, how can you cushion the system with load reduction programs? Can we create load reduction programs that can quickly reduce the load, 2,000, 3,000 megawatts for a few hours a year so you don’t have to build as much?”

Dickerson then asked, “And those load reduction programs are not just sending out texts to tell people not to turn on the lights — or to turn them off…but they are automatic systems that, given a signal, will lower the air conditioning, stop the washer, and do it automatically, is that what you’re essentially talking about?”

Gunda responded, “You’re absolutely right.”

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