Can California’s power grid handle all these electric cars? Roadshow

Q:  Now that our dear governor has issued his edict for all electric cars by 2035, could your experts compute as to how many more gigawatts of power will have to be added to our super electric grid which can’t handle a hot summer day, a day when the wind blows, or the number of windmills for the night when solar power doesn’t work? This would be of great interest to folks charging their cars for the next day’s trip.

Charles Shoemaker, Sunnyvale 

A: I’m sure that would be of great interest. It’s too early to say how many chargers will be needed statewide in 2035 for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call that all vehicles sold in the state be electric in 15 more years.

So I turned to Paul-the-Merc’ s-Environmental-Guy. He reports:

“California’s grid problem is pretty easily fixed, many experts say. They describe it as more of a growing pain as the state increases renewable energy than a fatal flaw. California now gets 34% of its electricity from renewable energy, which has reduced smog and greenhouse gas emissions. That number will continue to increase, as state law requires 60% by 2030.

“Experts, including those at the ISO (Independent System Operator), the agency that runs the grid, say that the state Public Utilities Commission needs to require utilities like PG&E to sign more contracts with power generators to ensure they have enough electricity, even during extreme heat waves like we had during last month’s two days of blackouts. Also, the state is requiring utilities to provide more battery storage so that solar power can be preserved as the sun goes down and used later. That storage will continue to ramp up, reducing the shortfall at night during heat waves.

“Electric cars can be and are charged at people’s homes, off solar panels on their roofs. Not all of it comes from the power grid.

“People can still keep and drive their existing gasoline cars, pickups, minivans and SUVs, and can buy and sell used ones. They may be able to buy a new gas-powered vehicle out of state, although chances are high that other states and the nation as a whole may pass similar laws, the way that Canada, England, Germany, France, Israel, India and other countries have.”

My thoughts: We can see the terrible impact of climate change from droughts and rampaging wildfires in western states to increasingly frequent tropical storms and hurricanes in coastal and eastern states, as well as freak storms such as the hurricane-force derecho that tore through Iowa in August.

It’s beyond time that we take drastic efforts to curb climate change. The effects of our actions now will long outlive us.

Roadshow readers, what are your thoughts?

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Author: Gary Richards