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California Bets On Clean Energy To Beat Blackouts

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered on Thursday utilities to procure 11.5 gigawatts from zero-emission electricity sources in what it described “a historic decision” aimed at ensuring reliability and the state’s clean energy goals.

The commission ordered utilities to procure that amount of new electricity sources, which would come online between 2023 and 2026. All sources should be clean energy sources, such as distributed energy resources (including energy efficiency and demand response), renewables, and zero-emitting sources.

“This represents the largest capacity procurement ordered at a single time by the CPUC, and is the largest requiring only clean resources,” the commission said.

The 11.5 GW are estimated to be enough to power roughly 2.5 million homes. 

“The resources required to come online in the years 2023 through 2026 are needed to respond to more extreme weather events, while replacing electricity generation from more than 3,700 MW of retiring natural gas plants and 2,200 MW from Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s retiring Diablo Canyon Power Plant,” the CPUC noted.

“Included is solar, wind, geothermal, and long duration storage—pumped hydro facilities or other emerging technologies that can store energy for eight hours or longer. Our actions today will ensure that we can keep the lights on during periods of greatest demand, even as we retire Diablo Canyon and other natural gas plants,” Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen said in a statement.

As the summer begins, California is once again facing blackouts or rolling outages due to insufficient power supply for summer peak demand as well as the threats of wildfires in the summer and the fall.  

California utility PG&E Corp may have to shut down the power supply to customers more frequently during the wildfire season in the summer and the fall this year due to exceptional drought conditions, the company’s chief risk officer Sumeet Singh told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. The power outages could be more frequent, but they will likely be smaller, Singh said.

In addition, a more severe than usual drought in California has depleted reservoirs and lakes, including the ones feeding some of the largest hydropower facilities, putting the state again at risk of power outages during heatwaves this summer. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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