Cali Does An Energy 180 Amid Heat Wave

California is in the midst of a heat wave that has made temperatures soar, while the state’s energy demands remain high. California is looking for a mixture of sources to meet electricity demands, but fossil fuels remain the largest source of power for the state’s grid.

According to data compiled by the California Independent System Operator, natural gas accounted for more than 40% of the total grid supply on Sunday, the highest of any source. Solar energy was the second-largest source of power, providing 34% of the grid’s energy, but the benefits of solar were restricted to peak sunlight hours between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Once the sun sets, fossil fuel-fired power plants become the primary source of electricity. In fact, on Sunday night, natural gas provided 45% of the state’s power compared to 27% generated by renewables.

Fossil fuels remain the backstop for California’s grid whenever renewable energy sources, such as solar, are not available. However, this reliance on fossil fuels goes against California Governor Gavin Newsroom’s stance on climate change.

“The impacts of climate change have never been clearer — the hot days continue to get hotter in our state and across the West, putting millions of Californians at risk,” Newsroom said.

To reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and combat climate change, Newsroom unveiled a plan in November to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, decrease oil usage and increase the use of solar and wind power over the next two decades.

Despite Newsroom’s efforts to move away from fossil fuels, in 2021, the most recent year with data, natural gas still generated more than 50% of the state’s electricity while wind and solar accounted for about 25%.

With temperatures continuing to rise and electricity demands increasing, it remains to be seen how much California will be able to shift away from fossil fuels to meet energy needs.

Kevin Slagle, a spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association, said that meeting the state’s climate goals will require significant investment and energy infrastructure.

“While these challenges and the costs associated with them are worked through, the facts are we need natural gas to power our grid,” Slagle said. “Even today with normal temperatures and clear skies, natural gas is the largest contributor to California’s power grid.”

California’s reliance on fossil fuels amidst this heat wave shows how difficult it can be to move away from traditional power sources, even with the drive towards greater sustainability. It is up to the state to figure out how to manage the balance between energy needs and the realities of climate change.

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