During California’s recent heat wave, the state intensely relied on natural gas to keep the lights on despite the state’s quick promotion of renewable energy sources.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the state’s electric grid counted on natural gas for nearly half of its electricity production to reach peak demand levels.
During the week of September 4, for short periods of time, natural gas comprised up to 60% of the fuel mix of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), contrasted with 32% for the year before the week of intense demand, the EIA said, per Reuters.
CAISO ordinarily uses hydroelectric power, electricity imports, solar, wind, and natural gas to create the levels required to reach peak periods of need, per the EIA. The group noted that units of natural gas are typically the last source used in the state because they can be utilized after the sun goes down when people still need to turn their air conditioning on in their homes. It added that when there are record high levels of need, the natural gas units, which it says are not as capable and cost more money, are necessary.
CAISO information revealed that during the peak time periods between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., the amount of natural gas in the energy mix went up to over half during the September 4 week, per Reuters. The evening hours typically see a higher need for energy as solar power is not as available and more cooling efforts are needed.
The amount of renewable energy, like solar, wind, and nuclear went down to 24% for the week, compared to 40% for the year up to that time period.
CAISO utilized natural gas for up to 60% and never below 30% of the mix of power to reach demand needs during certain times of the week.
Leading up to the week of high temperatures, the mix had 40% from solar, nuclear, batteries, wind, and others. It involved 32% from natural gas, 20% from imports, and 7% from hydroelectric, according to the EIA.
Residents received several Flex Alerts, telling them to save power during certain periods of time, and the state avoided issuing rolling blackouts as it needed to do in August of 2020.
The state’s quick shift to renewable sources of energy has put an increased amount of strain on the electric grid, making it less and less reliable during periods of high temperatures, but Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom has touted the success of the state’s green energy initiatives.
During the week of the heat wave, Newsom told reporters that the “pretty extreme” situation made the state use additional natural gas a fallback resource.
“We all want to accelerate the elimination of the gas, but it’s a sober reminder of reality,” he said.