As record-setting temperatures surged into the triple digits in parts of California this week, the manager of the state’s electrical grid put out an urgent plea: Turn down the AC and conserve power to avoid rotating outages.The operative words: "... can generate..." If that includes intermittent energy, we have a problem.
The two-day flex alert by the California Independent System Operator drew headlines from dozens of media outlets across the state and country. It also sent electricity prices on the wholesale market soaring four to five times higher than normal — a cost that will be passed on to utility customers.
There was no statewide shortage of electricity — not even close, according to a Times analysis of federal and state energy data.
Even as the mercury climbed, consumers used 44,184 megawatts Tuesday — 3,656 fewer than the forecast. But the system can generate about 71,000 megawatts, which means there was 38% unused capacity. That’s well above the 15% reserve required by the state for emergencies.
Some energy experts said the flex alert was unnecessarily alarmist.
Unnecessarily alarmist? I don't know. Then these consecutive paragraphs from the article:
Even the utility companies said that the increased demand caused by rising temperatures had not created an energy shortage.
“We’re looking at normal operations,” Robert Laffoon-Villegas, a spokesman for Southern California Edison Co., said as he gave his company’s report during a media call Tuesday.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was hit the hardest with some 377,000 customers in the San Francisco Bay Area out of power at some point through Thursday.
By Thursday afternoon, power outages had been reduced to typical daily levels, she said.
But the source of the outage wasn’t consumers draining the power supply nor a lack of power plants.Overall, more than enough electricity, but not always available in all areas.
“This is not an energy supply issue at all,” Paulo said. “Transformer failure has been the No. 1 cause for heat-related failure for us.”
Some inconvenient truths, some mentioned in the article, some not:
- some plants undergoing maintenance, had to be brought back on line to meet demand
- solar and wind energy cannot be ramped up when needed
- difference between nameplate capacity and actual production
- risk of localized outages cascading to generalized grid failure
- necessity for coal/natural gas to back up wind/solar
- wind/solar: intermittent and unpredictable
- it's only June; the hottest days of summer are yet to come