Oops, electric grid is in trouble, don't charge your car | Tim Talk | Tim Hunt | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Local Blogs

By Tim Hunt

Oops, electric grid is in trouble, don't charge your car

Uploaded: Sep 6, 2022

California is teetering on the edge of rolling electrical blackouts for the first time in six years.
It’s so bad that the state’s grid operator has asked residents to avoid using appliances in the afternoon and evening between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. when the sun goes down and solar energy goes away. No telling how windmills will function because heat waves often means little or no wind.
It’s so extreme, with power demands today potentially reaching the all-time high, that the grid people also are asking residents who own electric vehicles not to charge them. Come again—not to charge them? How are those who were planning to use their vehicle to get to work or school or in their business supposed to cope with discharged batteries?
Mind you, two weeks ago the governor and legislators celebrated when the state air board heeded his request and banned the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles after 2035. So, will we see pictures like the one out of coal country where miners were helping a stranded motorist by pushing his electric vehicle with a discharged battery down the road?
Today, with electric vehicles making up less than 5% of the vehicles on the state’s roads, the grid cannot keep up with power demands. It will only get worse as cities follow the example set by Dublin and ban natural gas appliances in new construction—that means using electricity to heat water, dry clothes and cook.
The governor, with his ambitions for higher office, jammed a bill through the Legislature to extend the life of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor that had been scheduled to shutdown in 2025. That included a favorable $4 billion loan as well as an exemption from any environmental review. The state also has delayed the phase out of natural gas-powered peak demand power plants that are necessary during high demand periods. Given the thousands of trees that have died in the Sierra Nevada, it also allowed them to fuel other power plants beyond the scheduled termination.
Consider that PG&E will spend billions to under-ground high voltage lines crossing areas with high fire danger and that doesn’t upgrade grid capacity—it’s a safety and reliability project. What’s needed is lots more capacity for all these electrification measures and it’s needed now.
The supply chain challenges have been brought to the forefront by the pandemic, but has anyone really considered where the raw materials are going to come from for the batteries—be they storage for the grid or mobile for vehicles. And, what’s going to happen to the dead batteries when they quit working after a decade.
It’s the same with the huge windmills that have replaced the first generation wind generators. The huge blades, as this point, cannot be recycled—they’re headed for the landfill unless new technology is developed.
Newsom and the Democrats in Sacramento—to say nothing of Washington D.C.—have jumped off the climate change cliff without bothering to check and see if they had a parachute strapped on. Sadly, they are likely to take this formerly golden state down with them.

For additional perspective, check out Lee Ohanian of the Hoover Institute's column: