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California May Need Fossil Fuel Power To Avoid Blackouts

California may need to tap fossil fuel-powered generation capacity to avoid blackouts this summer, the AP has reported, citing a proposal signed this week by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The proposal gives the state powers to buy electricity, which, according to the report, has some worried that it will buy fossil fuel-sourced electricity.

California is by far the most ambitious state in the U.S. when it comes to climate goals, but even it cannot power itself entirely with solar and wind yet. It is currently working on expanding its storage capacity, but this expansion will take time, especially with the lingering supply chain snags that have plagued industries since the start of the pandemic and have not gone away after its end.

Earlier this year, state officials warned that California risked blackouts in the summer because of an energy shortfall equal to the power necessary to satisfy the energy needs of 1.3 million households.

According to these officials, the reasons for the blackout threat were a combination of drought, wildfires, supply chain disruptions, and regulatory snags on the road to more solar.

To handle the danger, Governor Newsom’s proposal seeks to establish a “strategic reliability reserve” to be managed by the Department of Water Resources. Its job would be to reimburse utilities that need to buy extra power and also add temporary generation capacity when needed, including plants powered by fossil fuels, such as gas plants.

The measure is a short-term one, however, as the gas-fired plants are set to close next year. Diesel generators will also be killed as a source of energy in California beginning next year.

Reactions to the bill varied, depending on where they came from. A Republican State Senator, for instance, said it proved California still needs fossil fuels.

“If we don’t have these gas-powered plants to fire up when we need them you will not be able to flip the switch and get electricity.”

One environmentalist blamed it on a lack of ambition when it comes to the state’s climate goals.

“The state is saying we need to rely on fossil power and they’re not fully admitting that it’s because of this lack of ambition,” Alexis Sutterman, an energy equity manager for the California Environmental Justice Alliance, told the AP.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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