California’s Renewable Energy Meltdown: Power Prices Rocket Amidst Rolling Blackouts

Want unaffordable and unreliable power? Then wind and solar are just the ticket. With their grid on the very brink of collapse, Californians are suffering from rocketing power prices – all thanks to a ludicrous attempt to run on sunshine and breezes.

Even when the sun is shining, the wind is blowing and power is being delivered to those in need, a growing number have no hope of paying for it.

Already paying America’s highest power prices, Californians are watching in horror as their power bills continue to soar.

Robert Bryce reports on California’s renewable energy meltdown.

Blackouts Loom in California as Electricity Prices Are ‘Absolutely Exploding’
Real Clear Energy
Robert Bryce
24 June 2021

Two inexorable energy trends are underway in California: soaring electricity prices and ever-worsening reliability – and both trends bode ill for the state’s low- and middle-income consumers.

Last week, the state’s grid operator, the California Independent System Operator, issued a “flex alert” that asked the state’s consumers to reduce their power use “to reduce stress on the grid and avoid power outages.” CAISO’s warning of impending electricity shortages heralds another blackout-riddled summer at the same time California’s electricity prices are skyrocketing.

In 2020, California’s electricity prices jumped by 7.5%, making it the biggest price increase of any state in the country last year and nearly seven times the increase that was seen in the United States as a whole. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the all-sector price of electricity in California last year jumped to 18.15 cents per kilowatt-hour, which means that Californians are now paying about 70% more for their electricity than the U.S. average all-sector rate of 10.66 cents per kWh. Even more worrisome: California’s electricity rates are expected to soar over the next decade. (More on that in a moment.)

The surging cost of electricity will increase the energy burden being borne by low- and middle-income Californians. High energy costs have a particularly regressive effect in California, which has the highest poverty rate – and some of the highest electricity prices – in the country. In 2020, California’s all-sector electricity prices were the third-highest in the continental U.S., behind only Rhode Island (18.55 cents per kWh) and Connecticut (19.19 cents per kWh.)

Before going further, let me state the obvious: California policymakers are providing a case study in how not to manage an electric grid. Furthermore, that case study shows what could happen if policymakers at the state and federal levels decide to follow California’s radical decarbonization mandates, which include a requirement for 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045 and an economy-wide goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.

Even though the state’s tattered electric grid can barely meet existing demand – and more rolling blackouts are almost certain this summer – California continues to pile bad policy on top of bad policy. The state has banned the future sale of cars powered by internal combustion engines which will result in dramatic increases in electricity demand and will require, according to a recent report by the California Energy Commission, the installation of 1.2 million new EV charging stations by 2030. Bans on natural gas will further increase electricity demand. Cheered on by the Sierra Club, which is getting tens of millions of dollars from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, about 46 California communities have banned the use of natural gas in homes and businesses. Making the whole thing even more absurd, is that California is pledging to achieve these goals while closing the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant, the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, which by itself produces nearly 10% of all the juice consumed in California.

The state’s surging energy costs demonstrate the regressive nature of decarbonization policies and how renewable-energy mandates drive up the price of power. California’s electricity prices are “absolutely exploding,” says Mark Nelson, an energy analyst and the managing director of the Radiant Energy Fund, who used that phrase on a recent episode of the Power Hungry Podcast.  He added that the electricity price hikes are happening before the state’s utilities have incurred all of the costs of the deadly wildfires that swept the state, trimming millions of trees to prevent future wildfires, and adding all the mandated renewable-energy capacity, transmission lines, and new battery storage that the state will need to meet its climate goals. Further, the costs do not include all of the costs that will be incurred after the proposed shuttering of Diablo Canyon in 2025.

Last week’s power conservation requests are likely the first of many to come. On May 27, CAISO CEO Elliot Mainzer warned that if the state is hit with another hot summer like the one that required rolling blackouts that left more than 800,000 homes and businesses without power over two days last August, “our numbers tell us the grid will be stressed again.” That warning followed a May 12 CAISO press release which warned that “reliability risks remain” and the state will likely need “voluntary” electricity conservation this summer to avoid a repeat of last year’s blackouts.

The specter of more blackouts is yet more bad news for California’s beleaguered consumers. Between 2010 and 2020, the state’s electricity prices jumped by 39.5%, which was, the biggest increase of any state in the U.S. Even more worrisome: California’s electricity rates will soar over the next decade.

In a report issued in February, the California Public Utility Commission warned that the state’s energy costs are growing far faster than the rate of inflation, and that “energy bills will become less affordable over time.

What’s driving up prices? The report says that “electrification goals and wildlife mitigation plans are among the near-term needs…that place upward pressure on rates and bills.” The report projected that residents living in hotter regions (that is, those who can’t afford to live close to the coast) who get their electricity from San Diego Gas & Electric could see their monthly power bills increase by 47% between now and 2030. When future gasoline-price increases are included, overall energy costs for that same consumer are projected to increase by 60%. Furthermore, the CPUC expects residential ratepayers in SDG&E’s service territory will be paying close to 45 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2030.  For reference, that is more than three times the current average price of residential electricity.

Meanwhile, the state’s renewable plans are being thwarted by rural Californians who don’t want wind and solar projects in their neighborhoods. California has added essentially no new wind capacity since 2013. The latest rejection of Big Wind happened on Tuesday when the Shasta County Planning Commission unanimously rejected a permit for Fountain Wind, a project that proposed to put 216 megawatts of wind capacity (and about 71 turbines) in a mountainous area west of the town of Burney. The project met fierce resistance. According to David Benda, a reporter for the Redding Record Searchlight, “The 5-0 vote capped a marathon meeting that went nearly 10 hours and ended just before 11 p.m. The unanimous vote was met with cheers.”

As I have previously reported, the backlash against Big Wind goes far beyond California. It can be seen throughout Europe and from Maine to Hawaii. Since 2015, more than 300 communities in the U.S, have rejected or restricted wind projects.

In addition to the raging land-use conflicts, California policymakers are facing a growing backlash from California’s Latino population, which is the largest in the country. As I reported last year, the state’s Latino leaders have sued the state over its housing, energy, and climate regulations. Jennifer Hernandez, the lead lawyer for The Two Hundred, a coalition of Latino leaders, told me those regulations are “incredibly regressive” and are bringing  “Appalachia economics” to California’s “non-coastal elites.”

Robert Apodaca, the founder of United Latinos Vote, a non-profit group, told me recently that the ongoing electricity price hikes in the state “will be crippling for low- and middle- income Californians, particularly for those who live in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire. They are going to really feel the heat, in more ways than one.”

The punchline here is clear: the blackouts and high electricity prices that are plaguing California provide a neon-lit warning sign about the electric reliability and energy affordability crises that loom if policymakers attempt to decarbonize our economy too quickly.
Real Clear Energy

4 thoughts on “California’s Renewable Energy Meltdown: Power Prices Rocket Amidst Rolling Blackouts

  1. And the pollies keep saying that sunshine and breezes is cheap… and the public still believes them!
    Go figure

  2. This article ignores some facts, one is that the state subsidizes the poor in more ways than one including electricity and much more heavily than fly over states. It’s a bit disingenuous to leave that out. Another thing I find irksome is constantly bashing Califorina’s power outages that are made to appear as if they are every day. It’s July and we had only one outage for 1/2 of a second here in the Desert. This is because we rely on natural gas peaker power plant, not wind and solar even though they blanket the entrance to Palm Springs presenting the illusion that we get most of our power from these movie sets. I expect we will have one or two more difficult to deal with outages by end of summer but that also happens in cold climates due to weather. Our “weather” is a strain on the grid so to speak from heavy surges of use along with the real problem as described of the grid having become stressed by the chaotic energy systems and the lunacy of deleting nuclear power that was quite reliable and ENERGY EFFICIENT.

    The claim that CA adding “virtually no wind since 2013” is absurd, an old project just was removed last year at Desert Hot Springs that was built in the 1980s, to the dismay of the public as when built the promise was they’d be removed after their life and the hill restored, but they reincarnated into giants. They are something like this Volvo commercial that presents the illusion that they are our friends looking out for us.

    They were the old lattice work steel ones, short though many on one hillside, almost 100, they then installed a handful of new MONSTROUS ones that are on the very top of the mountain looking down at everything they can be seen now for many many miles. They are horrible. They stand out 100x more than the old ones. Everyone wanted those just removed and the hillside restored, which happens to be on the Pacific Crest Trail. I sent in opposition to the project stating the foundations of these systems are built on quicksand, that is, the claim we need to adjust climate is insane, quack science, and based on the fraudulent claim that carbon builds up in the air, forms a blanket preventing heat to escape, when the very climate itself RECYCLES IT BACK TO EARTH CONSTANTLY. If only it could do that to the climate goons brains bringing them back to planet Earth. Carbon in the air is about 1 particle per 2499 other particles of movable air, stuck blankets never happen except in cult minds which are mostly air too.

    Northern CA has one wind spinner project on pristine hillside that was voraciously opposed by tribe members and locals that ended up approved while another is in limbo. It would be approved after lawsuits unless maybe we ELECT KEVIN KILEY as replacement for the self centered elitist climate loon being recalled that has driven this state into the ground while rewarding all his rich friends with truckloads of fossil fuel based energy dollars. Kevin is in the Legislature, forged the recall, refused their self serving handouts of tax payer dollars for undeserved raises grafted during the Medical Dictatorship (MD) induced feardemic.

    There’s another wind spinner project near what has always been in the past a picturesque Lompoc where the town held out for more money to repair the roads that the PROJECT WILL DESTROY thus wasting tonnes of fossil fuel energy to rebuild, money of which like what the Sierra Club is founded on is all made using fossil fuels.

    Then there’s the Campo Indian Reservation wind sucking blight project where most of the tribe members did not want it but the tribe elders did. Big kerfuffle there, they will be installed ruining thousands of years of beauty and tranquility.

    Then there’s the off shore wind projects in the works in the Pacific, permit approval processes is challenging, but those are being planned and my guess is under the Self Centered Psychosis administration these will be rubber stamped eventually.

    And don’t forget the fringe projects that are not being build in California but will send their power there, such as the sPower build out of 170 turbines 755 feet tall skyscraper size on 49 square miles south of Winslow at the beautiful Chevelon Butte, Chevelon Canyon, Chevelon Acres, Chevelon Retreat areas above Heber, Arizona and the Apache Sitgreaves Forest which also is subject soon to being pilfered by interest in so called ‘bio-fuel’ which is the new woke name for what was previously called ‘raping the forest’.

  3. What does CA expect when they shutter their Natural Gas power generation and zero-emission generation at Nuclear, and replace it with nothing more than “hope” that the state can import electricity from the Southwest and Northwest, “IF” those remote locations have enough to export?

  4. California gets its comeuppance for 25 years of launching nuclear missiles onto the Marshall Islands and treating their inhabitants as guinea pigs on behalf of NATO. California isn’t the only place where the population have been stupefied. See YouTube The Coming War On China.

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