California rolling blackouts lifted. Heat wave continues

California ISO. 8/16/20. 15:35

California ISO manages the flow of high-voltage long-distance electricity for 80% of California. Their charts show how they manage the current heat wave and huge demand for power. For a bit they were forced to institute rolling blackouts to keep supply and demand in balance.

Happily, the rolling blackouts are now gone. As of 3 PM Sunday they have plenty of power in reserve. Wow. And one-third of it is coming from renewable sources, mostly solar, then wind. That’s also impressive. California is a leader in renewable energy and the investment is paying off.

Natural gas is still king

However, if we drill down a bit, we see that natural gas and imports are still crucial. The Today’s Outlook chart shows natural gas generating 42% of power. Imports, which are all sources of power from out of state, like big hydro in Washington and Nevada, solar power in Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico and maybe a few still functioning coal plants too. Yes, power comes to California from hundreds of miles away. About 15% of impored power is lost in transmission too.

Supply trends

The Supply Trends image shows renewables and natural gas ramping up fast as imports drop. That’s because, for example, Hoover Dam is in southern Nevada and generates a whopping 2 GW, enough for 1.5 million homes. During a heat wave, We here in Nevada keep that power for ourselves mostly, thanks for asking.

Oddly, California ISO does not include large hydro as renewable energy yet does include small hydro. That may be because they want to encourage small hydro being built instead of large hydro, which has serious adverse environmental effects.

Bottom line: Coal power has almost completely vanished. Natural gas has replaced it. The grid is getting way cleaner and renewable. However without natural gas there would not be enough electricity. In ten years maybe that will have changed. Hope so.

California ISO Supply Trend. 8/16/20