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Saturday, July 31, 2021

California’s Power Jam – WSJ

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President Biden wants to spend tens of billions of dollars on transmission lines to transport renewable electricity across states, which he says will improve grid reliability. His climate model of California is showing the limits and risks of this strategy.

California’s Independent System Operator (Caiso) on Friday and Saturday issued emergency alerts urging residents to conserve power during the evenings to avoid rolling blackouts. A wildfire in Oregon threatened transmission lines that import thousands of megawatts of hydropower that are needed when the sun starts to go down.

Progressives blamed Texas’s power outage in February on its limited ability to import power from other states after its wind turbines froze and not enough natural gas plants could ramp up to compensate. But grids in neighboring states had little power to spare, which was the problem this weekend in California and will continue to be all summer.

The California Public Utilities Commission ordered Caiso last month to procure more power for evening hours this summer due to reduced hydropower generation and imports caused by drought. It’s not clear where Caiso plans to get the power since supply is expected to be tight across the Western U.S. for the same reasons.

Rest assured, Caiso has a back-up plan: Snatch energy headed elsewhere. Caiso manages interconnections between utilities and power providers across the Western U.S. For instance, Arizona utilities contract with hydropower plants in the Northwest for power that is transmitted through California.

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