Keep California on the West Coast

Rolling blackout in Pasadena, CA.

by Bill O’Keefe

Virginia has passed a law — SB 851 — requiring Dominion Energy to supply 30% percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2030 and to close all carbon-emitting power plants by 2045. According to the Energy Information Administration, natural gas fueled 53% of Virginia’s electricity net generation in 2018, nuclear power provided almost 31%, coal fueled about 10% and renewable resources, primarily biomass, supplied nearly 7%. Over the next decade, Virginia must replace its coal fired power and reduce its gas-generated electricity by over 40%. From its public statements, Dominion plans to go all out in wind and solar, emulating California.

California’s electricity rates are 61% higher than Virginia’s — 19.79 cents per Kwh versus 12.28 cents. Over the past month, there have been numerous news stories about rolling blackouts in California caused by renewable energy mandates and inability to substitute enough from other sources when solar and wind aren’t able to meet demand.

After a 2000 energy crisis, which led to rolling blackouts and sky-high electricity prices, California has focused on eliminating fossil fuels and shifting to carbon-free energy sources. Renewable sources, primarily wind and solar, produce plenty of power during the day when there is sunlight and windy conditions but when the sun goes down and winds become calm, the electric grid has to pick up the load. if there is not sufficient storage or conventional power sources, blackouts are the answer. The problem is exacerbated because people’s peak electric use has shifted from mid-day to evening when solar resources are ending production. The solution is electricity storage batteries but those are currently not commercially viable. And, predictions of declining battery costs are like the horizon, they recede as you approach them.

The focus on renewables has had a serious unintended consequence. Large subsidies for renewable energy have made natural gas and nuclear plants uneconomical. As a consequence, these less expensive sources are being shut down and Californians are paying high prices for a renewable folly.

Virginia has chosen to follow a similar path and Dominion is willing to play along to maintain the good graces of the Legislature so it can remain a profitable monopoly. Dominion has laid out a path forward and customers not share owners will pay the price. In May, the utility submitted a 15-year plan for becoming carbon free by 2045. In the plan is an estimate of an additional $500- per-year cost for each customer in addition to the rates reflecting Dominion’s costs to provide electricity.

According to a May 2020 CFact article, “After all of the mandates of the VCEA (Virginia Clean Economy Act} are added up, Dominion customers will be saddled with $30 billion in additional expense over the fifteen year period covered by the Dominion plan –- $30 billion more than would be the case if the status quo were maintained.” Dominion recently announced an investment in hydrogen which it plans to blend natural gas to reduce emissions. Could this be a hedge against coming up short on wind and solar?

The zero-emissions goal is part of a larger plan by states and the Federal Government to reduce climate change emissions. What is conveniently ignored, beyond many climate uncertainties, is that if all of these emission reduction plans are successful, the effect on the climate system will be marginal. While wealthy nations like ours are adopting expensive, do-good plans, African and Asian nations are burning coal to raise their standards of living. China, for example, has plans that would require it to add a large coal-fired power plant every two weeks for the next 12 years. While those nations are focusing on economic growth and higher standards of living, Virginia and a number of other states are putting in place plans that will give us California electricity prices and its rolling blackouts. It would make more sense to help developing countries adopt our energy technologies for power generation.

William O’Keefe, a New Kent County resident, is founder of Solutions Consulting and former EVP American Petroleum Institute.

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48 responses to “Keep California on the West Coast

  1. The good news is, and it was reported here on Bacon’s Rebellion a while back, Dominion is not closing its gas plants. It isn’t even closing all of its coal plants. So there will be baseload available when the renewables prove unreliable (hello, look outside today!). California’s recent reliability problems are related to lacking that source diversity. Dominion suckered the General Assembly into passing a non-carbon energy bill that preserved most of the carbon energy. Slick. The governor loves it so much he has signing ceremonies over and over.

    The bad news is we will be paying for both, of course, carbon and non-carbon, so he ain’t wrong about the cost increases to come. Also as previously reported, that $500 figure is just part of it. And I think this chart is in constant dollars.

    • Excellent post. Steve’s nutshell summary is excellent too. Plus these non fossil fuel campaigns and the disasters and debacles they now are bringing down upon us daily in full force, as some of us on Bacon’s Rebellion predicted years ago, all contrary to the predictions of many self proclaimed energy experts with no real skin in the game save for their own crony rent seeking interests, experts who now end up knowing little about energy, or hiding what little they do know for private advantage, just as our public health experts too have grossly failed us on Covid-19, feeding us, the public, a steady diet of misinformation.

      And now in America we got the same cesspool of incompetence by experts going on in urban education, and urban public safety.

      What in the world is going on in America today! Why is our society, its systems, and institutions, breeding such incompetent fools called “experts.”

      We can start by looking at our corrupt and broken systems of public governance, and out public systems of education, particularly higher education, public and private, and their crony allies, in main stream media and crony capitalists.

  2. It is curious that a lot of the extreme weather in California may be related to climate change and the use of fossil fuel. I believe that a lot of the shift to renewables hasn’t really kicked in, but bloggers here seem to make a link between the two.

    Speaking of connecting the dots, I see that Mr. O’Keefe’s consulting firm does work for Exxon/Mobil and the API, of course, is the leading oil lobbying group.

    Here’s more on California and climate change:

    https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2019-12-26/california-decade-extreme-weather-climate-change-anxiety

    • You take issue with Mr. O’Keefe’s credentials while citing an article which was written by a BA in Religious studies major citing a Ph.D in Geography. Things that make you humm.

    • According to the Energy Information Administration “Renewable resources, supplied almost half of California’s in-state electricity generation in 2018. Natural gas-fired power plants fueled more than two-fifths.24 Nuclear power’s share of state generation declined from almost one-fifth in 2011 to less than one-tenth.” The push for renewables and the absence of surge capacity more than wildfires is what is leading to very high prices and blackouts.
      My consulting firm did work for ExxonMobil over a decade ago and my prior afliliation with API don’t change those facts. If you only have a few dots they are easy to connect.

  3. The only way to keep California on the west coast is to stop electing General Assembly members who behave like California politicians. That would require a functioning Republican Party in the state.

    State elections will be held in 14 months. Watch the process, especially the primaries and how many incumbents run unopposed.

  4. Wow – Yet another pro-forma anti-renewable blog post from an avowed fossil fuel lover! Will wonders never cease!

    😉

    Virginia is not California. Virginia is part of PJM and California not.

    We’re actually stupider than California. They don’t pay their utilities to produce outrageously-priced renewables!

    California also has issues with things like wind and fire in a state that is quite a bit larger than Virginia.

    If I had to bet which State will do energy “right” – I’d take California. They got issues but they’ll get the bugs out while we will remain as Dominion’s favorite cash cow.

    • Larry, Dominion is angling to get out of PJM. Beware. But I wouldn’t be eager to have PG&E and the folks in Sacramento as a replacement.

      Peter, LOL. Lived in Cali starting in 1959. There were fires. Went back to live there again in 1964. More fires. It’s a dry state. The story last weekend was not “people rescued from burning forest,” it was “idiots go into dry forest to camp during fire season.” You watch, people will just rebuild right there and fight any effort to clear the trees….Difference in the 60s was those forests were empty of homes. Not now.

      • Cali doesn’t help itself by not clearing all the dead forestation from the droughts they experience. Nothing like having kindling lying around to the tune of 129 million dead trees.

  5. The biggest difference between California and Virginia is that California can–for now–afford their liberal stupidity, until it kills the economy in the state.

    Virginia’s liberal stupidity is only enabled by the largesse of FedGov spending. The (public sector) economy cannot be killed. The FedGov continues pumping money into Virginia no matter what stupid decisions are made in Richmond.

    If you have a private sector job in Virginia, you need to think about moving out.

    • yeah, but youse guys have been blathering about California liberalism killing it’s economy for 60 years!

      It’s thrice-brewed “ideology” and mythology.

      ” California is the world’s 5th largest supplier of food, cotton fiber, and other agricultural commodities. In the U.S., California is the largest producer of food despite having less than 4% of the farms in the country.”

      All those farmers – not city-folk … “liberals” ? geeze

      Virginia is willing to give away the store to Dominion . That’s their idea of “business friendly”… 😉

      Any business with sufficient campaign donations can get the same deal!

      • I think we’ve had this conversation before.

        The liberalism in California is an EFFECT of their strong economy not the CAUSE.

        The liberalism in Virginia won’t create a strong economy in Virginia, any more than the tail can wag the dog.

      • If you look at the electoral history of California, between 1952 and 1988 a Democratic presidential candidate won that state exactly once in 1964.

        Democrats did not start winning the presidency in California until 1992. By my math, that was 28 years ago. Not 60.

      • The idea that there is one California is even more ridiculous than the idea that there is one Virginia. In fact, far more ridiculous. The public school system has all but collapsed. It was once the envy of the nation. It’s now ranked #37. Rich Californians just send their kids to private schools.

        Next time you plan a vacation to California may I suggest some places to see after your obligatory tour of Nancy Pelosi’s neighborhood?

        1. Mendota
        2. Clearlake
        3. Corcoran

        You don’t understand the wealth inequality in California.

        Even California’s liberal politicians can’t ruin its great weather and immense scenic beauty. However, they can (and have) created an unsustainable quality of life. We’ll see what happens as the hyper highly paid tech people are allowed to work from wherever.

        Here’s an article about California’s population growth issues pre-COVID and pre-current wildfires …

        https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-21/california-population-continues-to-decline-with-state-emigration-a-major-factor

        By the way – I’ve been to California perhaps 100 times. I’ve run business units based in California. I think it’s a great place being ruined by fundamentally dishonest politicians. The main dishonesty? Buying the votes of local and state employees by offering excessive retirement benefits that don’t affect today’s budgets but leave a ticking time bomb for later. Guess what? It’s now later.

  6. The economy in Virginia didn’t flourish for the decades that the DemoKKKrats were in charge of the state, did it?

  7. Larry, a chart like that with no reference numbers is totally worthless. Totally, and you must have realized that. It could be 200% up or 2….

    And it is very much like Virginia. Much of that is right there in an around Silicon Valley, just like NoVa drives up the numbers here. No question the tech explosion has added to that state’s GDP immensely. And that is to Idiocracy’s point…. And as to agriculture, first place I’ll stop if I ever get back is a farmer’s market. 🙂 Then on to wineries….

  8. But wait! As Steve has intimated – Dominion is considering leaving PJM and they are not alone – other states are also.

    And guess why? Hint – it has to do with fossil fuels… :

    US states weigh exit from power market in clean-energy dispute
    New Jersey, Maryland and Illinois say a federal policy will undermine renewables

    • Where is this graph from, what context is it derived and what are the values.

      That is all pertinent information, merely posting a gif it worthless.

      • x and y, Larry. Without those, just a slope that means nothing.

        • pretty sure I posted this: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CARGSP

          it explains the chart…

          are ya’ll so fixated on the chart that you missed that link?

          • No, you actually didn’t post it….Now you have! Hey, I usually look at what you find. Often very interesting!

          • thread:

            ” It’s fairly representative – just Google California Historical GDP Trend. I just put a graph that would display – not all of them will but I would not post a graph that did not honestly support what I was saying.

            it’s actually a Fed Reserve chart I believe:

            https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CARGSP

            California’s GDP has increased almost every year with the exception of the great recession.”

            see? like I said – I think ya’ll are fixated…

            I’d actually post both the charts and the links if I could without it going to moderation.. sometimes I take the time to post the link but delete the part that wordpress thinks is a second link.

        • Thanks, but you’re further head to just post a link. A tiny graph with zero reference is pointless.

          So we have a solid increase in GDP for California, which is driven by two industries, Tech and Film. That does’t correlate to all of CA, that wealth doesn’t distribute to all of CA. They are select groups. It’s also not a function of the Government that is driving that success, it’s almost conversely working as industries are fleeing CA because of the regulations and taxes.

          That exodus started in ’18 and I think you’ll see the GDP follow that trend southward.

          Further more infrastructure (power etc) peaked as a function of GDP in the 30’s (4.2%). Since that point it has been in steady decline, where Governments (federal, state and local) were spending less on infrastructure (as of ’16 1.5%).

          https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44896.pdf

          • actually:

            en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_California

          • Actually what?

            That graph doesn’t prove your point, it proves mine.

            The next time you want a graphic, I suggest not using the first Google image that is spit out.

            For instance in 2015 the Film Industry contributed $49.1 billion dollars to CA’s GDP.

          • 49 billion out of a 3.2 trillion economy?

            really?

            you’re starting to move more to personal attacks again.

            keep on and we’ll be done again.

            you don’t seem to learn on this.

  9. Don’t even get me started.
    I follow a fellow chemical engineer energy writer, his name is Robert Rapier. Here he is summing up annual global CO2 data.

    http://www.rrapier.com/2020/08/why-curbing-carbon-dioxide-emissions-poses-such-a-challenge/

    In the USA/Virginia we facing a zero-pollution movement, which apparently posits China needs to tolerate that, not US. Liberals believe electrification is the key salvation for USA, and they want to mandate that. Dominion can work with that attitude, for sure.

  10. Froom this nmorning’s New York Times:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/10/us/climate-change-california-wildfires.html

    Also, I find it amusing that Asian nations are raising their living standards by burning coal. In 2011, I went to Ulan Baatour in Mongolia for research on my book about the coal industry. There, they burn coal openly for heating and cooking. After two hours of breathing the air, I was coughing up black gunk.

    • In China and Asia, after every heavy rain, typhoon, or forest fire. do they saturate the media with stories about how those things never happened until climate change started destroying the planet? My guess is sky-is-falling and hatred of fossil fuels is not on their political correctness agenda.

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