Orange County is headed for lots of power outages unless we figure out how to square the state’s ambitious climate goals with the growing demand for electricity.
Sacramento has adopted a number of ambitious (and necessary) climate change laws and regulations which will cause greater demand and presumably higher prices for electricity. For example, by 2035 all new cars sold in California must be electric and, come next year, all lawn equipment sold in the state must be electric. New regulations in 70 California cities including Los Angeles and Irvine require most new buildings to be fully electric. There is every reason to believe that future climate legislation and regulations which increase demand for electricity will be forthcoming.
At the same time, the San Onofre nuclear power plant (SONGS) which provided CO2-free electricity to about one-fifth of the homes in the area, has been closed, and the proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach, which would have produced 50 million gallons of fresh water per day, was rejected. Also, in the wake of the 2021 Orange County Oil Spill, OC Senator Dave Min introduced legislation (SB 953) to ban offshore drilling.
All of this raises some important questions which have not received nearly as much attention as, say, oil company profits.
- Can this demand for electricity be met without fossil fuels, principally natural gas, which accounts for 38% of electricity generation (as of 2021), according to the California Energy Commission?
- If we are going to use more renewables, what’s the plan for installing billions of solar panels and windmills? Where will they go? Who is going to be doing this? What is the plan for training these “green” workers?
- Will the electric infrastructure be able to handle this increased load? Will electric lines have to be strengthened? Will we need more and better transformers? Will the electric service panels on buildings have to be enlarged to handle increased loads?
- And, of course, who is going to pay for all this–utilities, government, individuals?
What can we do here in Orange County to address these questions? In short, how can we get the power we need without ruining the environment?
Fred Smoller, Ph.D. is the President and CEO of the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon, which will be held October 5-15 at the O.C. Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, California. See ocsd23.com. He is also an associate professor of political science at Chapman University.