By Anthony Watts

This time, “rolling blackouts” are due to green energy issues, not Enron market manipulation.

Remember when California imposed rolling blackouts in 2000 and 2001? This occurred when California had a shortage of electricity supply caused by electricity market manipulations. A demand-supply gap was created, mainly by Enron, to create an artificial shortage so speculators could benefit from an 800 percent increase in wholesale electricity prices. As a result, California suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Now an electricity shortage coupled with rolling blackouts is happening again, but for a different reason.

This time it is due to “unreliable” aka green energy. Note that in 2000 and 2001, the forced rolling blackouts happened during peak load times (and peak pricing), which typical was in mid-afternoons. Now, the rolling blackouts hitting the state are happening in the evening. Why the difference?

According to the California Independent System Operator:

“A persistent, record-breaking heat wave in California and the western states is causing a strain on supplies, and consumers should be prepared for likely rolling outages during the late afternoons and early evenings through Wednesday … There is not a sufficient amount of energy to meet the high amounts of demand during the heatwave.”

The reason? Solar power, or more accurately, the lack of it. Solar power has a thorny problem: It disappears after sunset. And California’s electric grid is highly dependent on it now thanks to the political mandate known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32).

AB32 required that 50 percent of California’s electricity to be powered by “green energy” aka wind and solar, by 2025 and 60 percent by 2030, ending in 100 percent “carbon free” energy by 2045.

Now, California is paying the price for abandoning reliable energy sources in favor of green energy sources such as wind and solar power, which don’t work when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. During heat waves like California is experiencing now, there’s typically plenty of sunshine, but winds are often stagnant.

An analysis of data (shown in Figure 1) from the California Independent System Operator (CASIO) on August 14 shows clearly that solar power died at sunset. Stagnant wind power didn’t help at all and a huge demand-supply gap existed right around sunset, necessitating the forced rolling blackouts to keep the electric grid from collapsing.

It gets worse. On August 17, during the CAISO Board of Governors Meeting CAISO President Steve Berber let loose with this bit of reality. From transcript:

“You are trading the loss of 3000 megawatts for the collapse of the entire system of California and perhaps the entire West. … When you’re at the very edge and you have a contingency and you have no operating reserves, you risk entire system collapse.”

What a sobering thought.

California has traded energy security to kneel before the false prophet of green energy. Instead of using reliable and affordable nuclear and coal plants, they are using intermittent and unreliable wind and solar power. And the people of California, and perhaps the West in general, may pay the price for that homage if the power grid collapses during the ongoing heat wave.

If that happens, such an event will dwarf what happened at the hand of market manipulators like Enron in 2000/2001, and will be the most expensive and devastating green energy lesson ever in history.

Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website wattsupwiththat.com.

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