Not Even Diablo Canyon Can Save California From Its Green Energy Nightmare
California has waged a decades-long war against sanity — and the laws of physics — in the name of saving the planet by dumping tons of intermittent renewables onto the grid. Well, after years of wrecking the grid and raising energy costs, sanity seems to have prevailed.
California lawmakers last week approved legislation, backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, to extend the operational life of its last remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon. The $1.4 billion decision may seem costly, but it’s a steal compared to rolling blackouts.
Pro-nuclear activists, like Michael Shellenberger and Kristin Zaitz and Heather Hoff with Mothers for Nuclear, deserve praise for making sure this pillar of grid reliability stays up and running for an extra five years, hopefully longer. They prevailed against well-heeled environmental groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), that pressured the state into closing Diablo Canyon years back.
Unsurprisingly, Natural Resources Defense Council still stands by its role in increasing blackout risks for Californians. The Council’s California Government Affairs Director Victoria Rome says the agreement to close the plant “still stands as a model for orderly and equitable transitions from aging power plants to less costly and more flexible clean energy resources.”
By “flexible,” she means unreliable. Wind and solar power are weather-limited, and can’t just be turned up or down on demand. And the idea renewables are “less costly” is based on shoddy accounting that excludes the high price of batteries and back-up generation needed when the wind dies or the sun goes down.
No amount of soaring rhetoric about the virtues of “going green” or apocalyptic climate preaching can change the fact that wind and solar aren’t cut out to power modern industrial societies as Europe is learning right now.
California got roughly 34% of its electricity from renewables, mostly wind and solar. Unsurprisingly, residential electricity rates were nearly 29 cents a kilowatt hour in June 2022, about twice the national average. Since California has mandated 100% of its electricity come from non-carbon sources by 2045, rates are only going to go up.
Diablo Canyon’s two reactors provide roughly 9% of California’s electricity supply. With the state increasingly teetering on the edge of blackout, shutting down this vital source of electricity generation would be catastrophic for residents and the economy.
Unfortunately, keeping Diablo Canyon running on its own isn’t enough to save Californians from the climate policies put into place by the political class and the elites.
In the days since the Diablo Canyon vote, state legislators passed a slew of climate bills with even more aggressive targets to eliminate fossil fuels and cut emissions. Nuclear power, of course, is excluded from the state’s “green” electricity mandate.
Before that, California joined Oregon and Washington in opposing a major natural gas pipeline. Newsom wants to ban fracking, and regulators have already throttled drilling permits. Don’t worry, there’s more!
California officials banned the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035, in effect, mandating electric vehicles. One week later, California’s grid operator issued a “flex alert” as another heat wave set in, imploring residents, among other things, to not charging their electric cars from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Why? Because that’s “when the grid is most stressed from higher demand and less solar energy,” the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) warned.
Diablo Canyon, of course, has provided a stable supply of power to the grid as temperatures rose, but it’s not enough. And given Newsom’s zealous devotion to the “green” transition, it seems doubtful sanity will have many more energy policy victories while he’s in charge. Or until the grid reaches another breaking point… which probably won’t take long.
The fact is, California needs more Diablo Canyons. But for that to happen, its leaders will need to end their war on sanity.
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