Regulators are undermining California’s transition to 100% clean energy

By Luis Amezcua and V. John White | San Francisco Chronicle Link to article

Last summer, failures and heat exhaustion at gas power plants contributed to California’s first non-wildfire-related blackout in 19 years. In the days following, when temperatures remained brutally high and California’s power supply dangerously low, Southern California Edison and its customers united to move 4,000 megawatts of demand off the grid, preventing further blackouts.

The lesson? Demand response delivered solutions when gas generation failed.

With the California Public Utility Commission now rushing to prevent a similar disaster this summer, advocates are concerned regulators are not going far enough to invest in the clean energy resources and demand-side solutions that are key to supporting a reliable electricity grid. In a decision last week, regulators approved a plan that, while an improvement on earlier proposals, still opens the door to new gas contracts and increased reliance on diesel generators.

These proposals are the latest in a pattern of failures that are undermining California’s transition to clean energy, and as clean energy experts, we are alarmed. The CPUC continues to double down on gas, despite its contribution to climate change and toxic air quality, and despite legal mandates to ramp up renewable energy.

This is all the more concerning given that a new California Energy Commission analysis finds that California will need to move three times faster in building out solar and wind resources, and eight times faster in adding battery storage, to meet California’s 100% clean energy target. Gov. Gavin Newsom must step in and get regulators back on track to address the following issues:

Regulators have had years to plan for the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the wind-down of the last of the Korean War-era coastal gas power plants and the rapid closure of coal power plants in Western states that previously supplied imports to California; and to fill the looming power gap with clean energy. But despite the evidence that investing in renewables is the most cost-effective solution, there has been a distinct and inexplicable failure by the CPUC to do so.

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