California was previously hailed as the model for how states should deal with COVID-19.  With the so-called holiday surges, Governor Gavin Newsom and the incoming California Legislature are now facing a nightmare as the pandemic reaches record new cases and deaths in the Golden State.

The high positivity infection rate keeps California at or near the top of the list of states with the most new cases per capita.  California is also reporting a record 585 deaths in a single day. All of this will guide how the Legislature and the Governor begin their work in this session.

Even with vaccines becoming available, extended shutdowns across the state and students and work-from-home continuing, frustration is growing across the state.  So, is anyone paying attention to energy with the world seemingly falling apart?  We should.

In a recent report issued jointly by the nonpartisan think tank Next-10 and the consulting firm Beacon Economics, the authors reported that greenhouse gas emissions from 2018 — the latest year data is available — rose by about 0.2% for the first time since 2012.  The authors blame increases in power and commercial sectors — like facilities that use refrigeration and power plants — “… using highly volatile substances which create pollution.”

Noel Perry, the founder of Next-10, suggested that in order to get back on track, California should reduce emissions by around 4.9% yearly over the next decade if the state is going to reach the level mandated by Senate Bill 32.  The law requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below the 1990 levels by 2030.  Colleen Kredell, director of research for Next-10, added that California is already taking action by targeting refrigeration and air conditioning to help reduce emissions from the commercial sector. 

Should California rethink those actions right now?  Consider that the new load (new energy being required to serve the grid) may be largely driven by the sudden and unplanned need for refrigeration of a COVID-19 vaccine.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is hoping to inoculate at least 70% of the US population.  That is a staggering number of people and an enormous amount of vaccine that needs to be (1) produced, (2) kept safe with refrigeration, and (3) delivered.  

The production is taking place all over the world and in various laboratories in the United States.  Transportation, safekeeping, and safe delivery to where the vaccine will ultimately be administered are paramount.

The production of the vaccine, wherever it is being produced, takes energy.  The safekeeping takes energy.  The delivery takes energy.  At every point – energy is the common denominator.

In a few months, the hope is that the vaccine will begin to reach enough people so that the carefree life we used to live in California and the U.S. will return to normal.  That means the reopening of life – schools, restaurants, shopping malls, offices – all those things that have been shuttered.  Yes, by the way, getting us back to “normal” will take energy.  

As this monumental task takes hold of our state and country, there are a great number of people who we need to continually thank:  the scientists and doctors producing the vaccine, the front-line workers that are dealing with the pandemic’s impacts right now, the delivery people that will deliver the vaccine, the doctors and nurses who will apply the vaccine – and the folks running the power plants and producing the fuels needed to energize the whole endeavor.  To all of those folks, we owe you a debt of gratitude we may never be able to repay.  For all you have already done, and for all you will soon do, California and America thank you!