One week after California announced a ban on new gas-powered cars, officials issued and extended an alert telling residents to “avoid” charging electric vehicles as “available power supplies” diminish.
The western United States is facing a likely “prolonged and record heat wave” that could lead to temperatures as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service. As a result, the California Independent System Operator prepared to handle elevated electricity demand and warned residents that it would likely issue “voluntary energy conservation” notices over the Labor Day weekend. The agency’s first “Flex Alert” — which recommended voluntary decreases in energy consumption from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm — was released on Wednesday and extended to Thursday.
“During that time, consumers are urged to conserve power by setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, if health permits, avoiding use of major appliances and turning off unnecessary lights,” the announcement said. “They should also avoid charging electric vehicles while the Flex Alert is in effect.”
The request to refrain from charging electric vehicles occurred days after the California Air Resources Board issued new rules requiring 35% of new vehicles to produce zero emissions by 2026 — a standard that will rise to a 68% benchmark by 2030 and a 100% level by 2035. The legislatures of Massachusetts, Washington, and Virginia have previously passed laws binding their states to standards approved by the entity.
Charging an electric vehicle requires twice as much energy as a refrigerator each year, according to data from the Department of Energy. Researchers from Cornell University’s College of Engineering have warned that a rushed transition to electric vehicles will overwhelm the nation’s grids barring robust upgrades.
“Today, most people charge their electric cars when they come home in the evening — when electricity demand is typically at its peak,” the researchers said. “If left unmanaged, the power demanded from many electric vehicles charging simultaneously in the evening will amplify existing peak loads, potentially outstripping the grid’s current capacity to meet demand.”
Nevertheless, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other top Biden administration officials have urged the rapid adoption of electric vehicles to compensate for high costs at the pump. Gas prices surpassed $5.00 per gallon in early June before subsiding to $3.83 per gallon as of Thursday, according to AAA.
“The real truth is that as long as our nation remains overly reliant on oil and fossil fuels, we will feel these price shocks again,” Granholm said earlier this year. “This is not going to be the last time. The next time there’s a war, the next time there’s a pandemic or another hurricane, these extreme weather events we are experiencing — they will impact the access that we have to fossil fuels.”
The push for renewable energy also occurs as European nations — many of which are shuttering nuclear plants while continuing to discourage fossil fuels — face soaring natural gas prices ahead of the winter months. Desperate citizens of Germany are cutting down forests and stockpiling firewood in preparation to warm their homes, while citizens of Poland are queuing in front of coal mines in search of fuel.