Keeping California’s Lights On With Baseload Power

Ever since the Energy Crisis of 2000-01, California policymakers have pushed legislative mandates for more and more of the state’s energy needs to be met by renewable energy like wind and solar. But it won’t happen simply by mandating how the state will power its homes, businesses, and vehicles, or setting arbitrary deadlines for when those mandates are to be met.

California is already facing the limits of what current solar, wind, and even battery storage can provide. We still need wind to be blowing and the warm rays of the sun to produce the megawatts needed to meet the state’s growing and almost insatiable appetite for energy. And even the promise of battery storage to capture that energy isn’t sufficient to have enough power when wind and solar aren’t available.

Whether the state’s policymakers care to admit it or not, California still needs a large quantity of energy from natural gas-fired power plants to provide the baseload energy critical to maintaining electricity reliability. There is no way around this simple fact.

 

It appears, however, that some policymakers understand. Recently, government officials requested four natural gas power plants in California to remain open for three more years past their expiration date, so that they can provide that vital baseload power.

On any given day, California also depends on 20-30% of its electricity to come from our neighbors who are becoming more reluctant to sell us that power as they need it to feed their own growing needs.

In its zeal to move to an “all renewable energy, all the time” energy policy, California has put itself in a bind. The only way out is to recognize their miscalculation and ensure there is enough natural gas power available to meet the state’s needs.

We all want to get to a cleaner, greener energy future. As wind, solar and battery storage technologies evolve further, those will certainly continue to
help. But somewhere, there are new technologies being developed that may surpass them all. Today, however, the path to that future is lit by the blue flame of natural gas—the transition fuel that will get California where it wants to go.