More California blackouts — foreshadowed for Vermont?

By John McClaughry

In my commentary last week I pointed out that Vermont is heading down the road toward California-style electric blackouts.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts now writes that the reason for the blackouts is “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.”

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

By comparison, Vermont’s RESET Act of 2015 is even more stringent. It requires that 75% of a utility’s power supply must be renewable by 2032.

Watts continues: “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.”

Watts quotes California’s electric grid operator (CAISO) Steve Berber as saying: “[By replacing nuclear and fossil fuel generation with solar] you are trading the loss of 3000 megawatts for the collapse of the entire system of California and perhaps the entire West.”

Vermont has no fossil fuel electricity generation to shut down, but it will need to find renewable electricity from somewhere to power those 60,000 electric cars it plans to subsidize. Where, and what exactly? And at what price?

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain
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15 thoughts on “More California blackouts — foreshadowed for Vermont?

  1. On August 19, 2020, (shortly after the rolling blackouts of August 14 and 15) the California ISO sent a letter to Governor Newsom clearly identifying that inadequate firm generation capacity was responsible for these rolling blackouts.

    The letter also noted that the CPUC is responsible for purchasing firm capacity needed to meet electrical demand.

    The CPUC has now issued a directive to the California utilities requiring that an additional 3,300 MW of firm capacity be procured by 2021 which is an acceleration by 3 years versus the prior timetable for this additional firm capacity of 2023.

    The water quality control board was scheduled to shut down 4 additional coastal natural gas plants in August 2020, because of their use of ocean cooling. That plan was dropped at their hearing, because of the rolling blackouts.

    Thus only 15 of 19 coastal natural gas plants have been shutdown. These idiotic shutdowns are based on
    1) Likely “environmental damage of ocean cooling” and
    2) Reducing the number of fossil plants on the books to make the states renewable progress look better for political purposes.

    California, because of its absurd push for unreliable renewable energy, has to obtain its firm generation capacity needs by using the spot energy market, as was the case in the energy crisis and rolling blackouts of 2001.

    During the August 2020 rolling blackouts, the western US region was in a heat wave.
    There was not sufficient spot market energy available to California meet demand.

    In 2019, California had to import 28% of its total energy from other state’s which is by far the most of any state in the nation.

    Use of unreliable renewables is completely responsible for the most recent rolling blackouts, clearly demonstrating additional firm capacity is required to reliably serve demand, because of unreliable wind and solar being inadequate at the proper time.

    Electricity rates in California have increased 60% more than average US electricity rates in the since 2009 These increases were created by its mandated renewable energy policies.

    California’s push for unreliable renewables is driven by its meaningless claim of “fighting climate change” The state’s emissions reductions amount to a few tenths of a percent of present global emissions.

    Future annual global emissions, primarily by the world’s developing nations, are forecast to increase by billions of metric tons.
    California hypes its unreliable solar and wind renewables, but the reality is, after nearly 15 years of government-mandated use of unreliable renewables, and many tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, they provided only 22% of the state’s electricity in 2019, whereas natural gas provided over 34% of the state’s electricity.

    Furthermore, EIA data shows electricity only represents about 20% of the state’s total energy use with fossil fuels providing about 80%. Unreliable wind and solar provide only about 6.4% of the state’s total energy.

    California’s energy and emissions policy are in need of a massive overhaul with the present schemes driven by nothing but the “blithering idiocy” of the state’s politically contrived climate alarmist and energy policy propaganda. That overhaul cannot be implemented by the same people

  2. Heat pumps have been touted by almost all Vermont RE proponents to “save Vermont’s climate”
    It turns out, almost all owners will have a FINANCIAL LOSS each year, if amortizing costs are included, as proven by the CADMUS survey.

    1) CADMUS SURVEY, 27.6% of space heat from ASHPs per site, the rest from traditional systems
    https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/2017%20Evaluation%20of%20Cold%20Climate%20Heat%20Pumps%20in%20Vermont.pdf

    Many owners complained regarding annual energy cost savings being much smaller than promised. No wonder, the heat pumps had been installed in energy-hog houses.

    Finally, legislators pressured VT-DPS to have CADMUS perform a survey of 77 ASHPs at 65 sites, which showed, average energy cost savings were about $207/y per ASHP;

    If amortizing of the ASHPs had been included, the average owner would have had a loss of about $220/y per ASHP, not counting any service calls and parts

    Vermont free-standing houses with ASHPs would have about 27.6% of space heat from ASHPs and continue to have 72.4% of space heat from traditional systems, per CADMUS.

    Average Electricity Consumption for Heating
    https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/2017%20Evaluation%20of%20Cold%20Climate%20Heat%20Pumps%20in%20Vermont.pdf

    On average, an ASHP consumed 2,085 kWh during the heating season to provide 21.4 million Btu.
    Average heating COP = 21.4 million Btu/(2085 kWh, x 3412) = 3.008
    COP was 1.5 at 0F, better than electric heating, but much worse than heating with wood, fuel oil, propane and NG
    COP was 1.1 at -10F, similar to electric heating; no sane Vermonter would do that.
    See fig. 11, grey line, on page 24 of URL

    Heating mode averaged 1880 kWh
    Standby mode averaged 76 kWh
    Defrost mode averaged 129 kWh. See page 20 of URL

    Space Heat Demand
    The maximum output of all 77 ASHPs was about 1.1 million Btu/h, at 34F
    The output steadily decreased to almost zero, at -10F, which means owners were turning OFF their ASHPs, as it became colder, except a few owners, who had well-insulated/well-sealed houses. See fig. 11, orange line, on page 24 of URL

    Total building space heat demand, 65 sites, was about 2,323,154 Btu/h at -10F
    Total ASHP capacity could have delivered about 590,000 Btu/h, at -10F, or 590,000/65 = 9,077 Btu/h/site, but did not, because owners had turned them off.

    An owner with one ASHP (output 9,077 Btu/h at -10F) in an average Vermont free-standing house, would have a loss of $178/y, if the $4500 is amortized at 3.5% over 15 years, not counting service calls and parts. See tables 5 and 6
    The CO2 reduction would be 2.389 Mt/y, or 21.0%

    Whereas, there is a gain of about $207/y, due to energy cost reduction (as confirmed by VT-DPS and CADMUS), subtracting annual amortizing costs of the ASHPs results in an annual loss

    The existing addition of ASHPs is about 2,900/y, per VT-DPS
    EAN would add 90,000 ASHPs, by end 2025, or 18,000/y, WHICH IS BEYOND RATIONAL
    They would have the same CO2 reduction/ASHP as CADMUS, i.e., 2.389 Mt/y per ASHP. See table 6

  3. ENERGY ACTION NETWORK

    “Meeting Paris”: In 2019, EAN made estimates of what it would take to “meet Paris”, i.e., reduce CO2 from 9.76 million metric ton, at end 2016, to 7.46 MMt, at end 2025, or 2.281 MMt.
    https://www.eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EAN-report-2020-final.pdf

    Capital Cost to “Meet Paris”: The measures are a multi-billion-dollar wish list of EAN members with a cost exceeding $15.046 billion during 2020 – 2025, about $3.010 billion/y.

    Amortizing the cost of the mostly short-life assets (EVs, ASHPs, battery storage systems, etc.), at 3.5% over 15 years, would require payments of $1.291 billion/y, more than offsetting the EAN energy cost savings of 800/5 = $160 million/y, during the 2020 – 2025 period.

    Existing spending is about $210 million/y, including Efficiency Vermont.
    The spending to “meet Paris” during 2020 – 2025 would be about 15 times greater.

    EAN Savings and Capital Cost Estimate: Why does EAN not provide the spreadsheet that calculated these energy cost savings, as part of its glossy report? Why does EAN not provide a capital cost estimate of outlays for each year of the 2020 – 2025 period, by 1) Vermonters, 2) Federal government, 3) State government, 4) Local governments.

    EAN Members Eager to “Meet Paris”: EAN eagerly urged the Vermont legislature to “meet Paris” a few years ago, because that would be good for: 1) RE businesses of members, and 2) would display proper “virtue signaling”.

    EAN Members Eager for GWSA and “Fortress Vermont”: EAN is eagerly urging the Vermont Legislature to pass the Global Warming Solutions (Spending) Act. That act would turn aspirational goals of the CEP into mandated goals.

    The capital cost of GWSA would dwarf “meeting Paris”. That would be sweet music for EAN members. They would have expanding, heavily subsidized businesses and job security for decades at everyone else’s expense, despite knowing their RE scam would not be making one iota of difference regarding Vermont’s climate and the world climate.

    Gross Conflict of Interest: The membership of EAN includes ten prominent members of Vermont Department of Public Service, VT-DPS: June Tierney, Riley Allen, Ed McNamara, TJ Poore, Anne Margolis, Andrew Perchlik, Maria Fischer, Phillip Picotte, Ed Delhagen, Kelly Launder.
    – June Tierney is the Commissioner.
    – Andrew Perchlik is on loan to the Legislature to shepherd the GWSA and $1.2 billion “Fortress Vermont” bills to ensure they contain all the bennies for EAN members.
    – Perchlik manages the Clean Energy Development Fund that donates taxpayer money to renewable energy programs.
    – No wonder VT-DPS resorts to artificial/political CO2 calculations regarding Vermont’s electrical sector, and EV and ASHP programs.

  4. In Vermont, the only thing that makes any sense is to stop “emulating” California, immediately scrap GWSA, and concentrate on:

    1) Energy conservation
    2) Energy efficiency
    3) Building net-zero-energy houses and other buildings by the thousands each year
    4) Using high-mpg vehicles

    The above 4 items would save money for Vermonters, and make the state economy more competitive

    All of the rest is just expensively subsidized hogwash that would not make one iota of difference regarding climate change.

    It merely serves to subsidize the OWNERS of RE companies in Vermont, AT THE EXPENSE OF EVERYONE ELSE.

    YOU GIVE TO PAUL, YOU HAVE TO ROB PETER

    THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH

  5. “Compounding the danger is the unfortunate reality that California’s electricity capacity — arguably the most “green” in the nation — can’t handle the demand needed to run the air conditioning.”

    California “relying” on UNRELIABLE RENEWABLES yields a display of utter foolishness, when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing, which often happens in California, Germany, and New England THROUGHOUT the year.

    A few decades ago, Denmark had NO MEANINGFUL wind for TWO MONTHS.

    Governor Newsom claiming this was a surprise, or a failure in planning, is an utter lie/hogwash/horse manure.
    His own energy systems engineers have been telling him for years you cannot shut down 9000 MW of RELIABLE supply.
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/08/18/operators-fighting-with-politicians-to-keep-grid-from-collapse/

    I am so glad the great state of California is a “leader” in stupidity.
    Vermont RE bureaucrats should learn from this, instead of stupidly/mindlessly “emulating” California.

    IT GETS WORSE

    California is planning to shut down more traditional plants.

    In “preparation” for that next heat wave to hit California’s growing population, the California dysfunctional RE bureaucrats are planning on shutting down four power plants that have been providing continuous electricity to the grid.

    The four upcoming losses of continuous generating electricity are:

    1. PG&E’s Nuclear 2,160 megawatt Generating Plant at Diablo Canyon is to be shuttered in 2024.
    2. The 823 mw Natural Gas Power Plant at Scattergood in Playa Del Rey, to be shuttered in 2024.
    3. The 575 mw Natural Gas Power Plant at Haynes in Long Beach, to be shuttered in 2029.
    4. The 472 mw Natural Gas Power Plant at Wilmington, to be shuttered in 2029.

    For a state that IMPORTS more electricity than any other state in America, now at 32 percent, and already has the highest cost of electricity, c/kWh, in the country for its 40 million residents, the dysfunctional energy policies have no plans to replace the capacity being lost from those four power plant closures, other than building out more of unreliable solar and wind.

    The “hope” is that the Northwest and Southwest will be able to generate enough power for import by California to meet the electricity demands of California.

    But that HOPE is ill-founded during a multi-day heat wave.

    GWSA should be immediately cancelled, even though it was “passed” by a lot of uninformed Legislators

    The only thing that makes any sense in Vermont is 1) energy conservation, 2) energy efficiency, and 3) highly-insulated and highly-sealed, zero-net-energy, buildings, all over the state, by the thousands, each year.

  6. It is beyond rational to think Vermont’s legislature can pass a bill that presents a SOLUTION for climate change.

    There is NOTHING Vermont could do, or California could do, that would be a SOLUTION for climate change.

    Look at the mess POLITICIANS made of CALIFORNIA, closing down power plants they need, when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.

    Off-the-charts idiotic, and PREDICTED by independent energy systems engineers for at least 10 years

    GWSA is merely a vehicle to provide decades of subsidies to the owners of RE businesses, AT THE EXPENSE OF EVERYONE ELSE

    And if the subsidies are not enough and goals are not achieved, these owners of RE businesses can hire lawyers to sue the state for MORE AND MORE subsidies to achieve UNREACHABLE/UNREALISTIC goals pulled out of a hat by disgraced KLEIN/SHUMLIN a long time ago; Klein said at the time” AIM HIGH, WE CAN ALWAYS COME DOWN

    “And so it goes”, says Kurt Vonnegut; rest his soul.

  7. GWSA is improper legislation.
    It is a vehicle for Vermont RE companies to get RICH for decades, at everyone else’s expense
    It is flagrantly indecent with an ongoing multi-year recession and high unemployment
    It is iiredeemable
    It is flawed from A TO Z
    It should not exist in a free country, certainly not in the US.
    It disfranchises Vermonters for DECADES
    SCRAP IT

    It is a means toward wholesale coercion of the people of Vermont, just to please the OWNERS of RE companies who stand to have enormous gain for DECADES (at the expense of all others), while engaging in useless/damaging activities that would not make ONE IOTA of impact regarding the climate.

    This craziness has got to end in NOVEMBER
    Vote the fanatic RE idiots out.
    Drain the bureaucratic RE swamp

    Most sane legislators would oppose GWSA, if it were not for them taking a knee for the golden calf of PARTY UNITY.

    Liberal Dem/Prog-supported/subsidized VTDigger and Seven-Days have been suggested/ordered to not allow comments, because they typically were running 10 to 1 AGAINST GWSA and other such awful/economy-damaging “legislation”

    THE VOICES OF THE PEOPLE ARE BEING MUFFLED/SNUFFED OUT, right here in SOCIALIST/UNDEMOCRATIC Vermont.

    Bernie: I feel your pain, or was it Obama, or was it Clinton?

  8. GWSA to Subsidize Job Creation in RE Sectors
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/the-global-warming-solutions-act-a-decades-long-burden-on-vermont

    Vermont has a very poor climate for traditional, private-enterprise job creation. Forbes, et al., rate Vermont near the bottom. There are too many onerous taxes, fees and surcharges, and rules and regulations, that have caused businesses to not grow in Vermont, to leave Vermont, or not even come to Vermont.

    Vermont’s population is stagnant. Ambitious, younger people leave, older, more-needy people stay. Well-paying, steady jobs, with decent benefits, are hard to come by in Vermont.

    GWSA would create an expensively subsidized, industrial development policy that would:

    1) Require major increases in the current levels of various subsidies to all sorts of RE businesses for decades.
    2) Produce expensive, mostly variable/intermittent, unreliable, wind/solar electricity.
    3) Very expensively “create jobs” that would not exist without the subsidies.

    The GWSA “industrial development policy” would be an expensive substitute for traditional, private-enterprise job creation, which has proven so difficult in Vermont, largely because of historic, socialistic mindsets within the Legislature, which prefer to protect/enlarge/perpetuate vote-getting pet projects, instead of creating the proper conditions for a vibrant private sector that produces hi-tech products, employs highly-skilled, tax-paying workers, in steady jobs, with good benefits.

    GSWA Requires Major Annual Spending Increases

    Annual spending on RE would have to increase from the current $210 million/y (includes $60+ million for Efficiency Vermont) to at least $1.0 billion per year, to implement the CEP.

    If the RE subsidies were “freebie” federal subsidies, they would subsidize and grow RE businesses, and create jobs.
    However, federal subsidies increase and decrease, and come and go.

    If the subsidies were “state” subsidies, such as for 1) heat pumps, 2) electric vehicles, and 3) above-market, feed-in rates for solar, such as net-metering at 21.7 c/kWh and Standard Offer at 21.7 c/kWh, they would be extracted from Vermont ratepayers, taxpayers and tourists, which, as has been proven, would create jobs in the RE sectors, but would, as has been proven, eliminate jobs, or prevent jobs from being created, in almost all private-enterprise sectors.

    That would further worsen the near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy, and prolong the adverse employment conditions of the “Virus economy”.

  9. Subsidized Solar Profiteers Aided and Abetted by Legislators

    SunCommon, politically well-connected, wants to build-out solar for solar’s sake, because it makes good money installing solar systems. It does not care about:

    1) Net-Metered solar and Standard-Offer solar being charged to the utility rate base at up to 21.7 c/kWh, whereas such solar is worth to a utility about 8.5 c/kWh; N-M and S-O are the most expensive energy sources in the GMP electricity supply mix. See Appendix

    2) The capital cost of expensive grid extension/augmentation to physically connect solar systems and expensive battery storage to subsequently deal with their output variations. See Solar Coddling Services.

    3) Ratepayers, taxpayers, etc., paying through the nose, while they are being told various fables/fantasies about Vermont fighting climate change. See explanation of cost-shifting in Table 4.

    4) Its subsidy-fueled solar job creation causing increased costs, decreased job creation, and anemic growth in other sectors.

    Free Solar Coddling Services: It does not care about midday, grid-disturbing, DUCK-curves, and grid-disturbing downward output spikes due to variable cloudy weather.

    Owners of other generators, mostly gas turbine plants, are required to rapidly decrease their outputs to let his unruly, unreliable, expensive, solar onto the grid, starting around mid-morning, and then they are required to rapidly increase their outputs to fill the void, as solar nods off to go to sleep, starting late-afternoon/early-evening (a period with peak demands, mind you), until about mid-morning the next day.

    A rational person likely would think it is a true miracle, that solar, being such an expensive, troublesome, mostly absent “worker”, is getting all these subsidies, plus free coddling services.

    In 2019,
    Standard Offer solar cost shifting was $11 million,
    Utility Solar cost shifting was $14.5 million
    Net-Metered cost shifting was 38 million

    All this cost shifting is on top of the $60 + million/y added to electric bills for the utter-boondoggle, called Efficiency Vermont. About 90% of what EV does would have happened anyway, because Vermonters are not stupid, when it comes to saving money.

    NOTE: All this cost shifting does not include NE grid extension/augmentation, and the costs of the up and down ramping of gas turbines connected to the NE grid to counteract the wind/solar variations, 24/7/365. See table 3
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cost-shifting-is-the-name-of-the-game-regarding-wind-and-solar

    NOTE: It is assumed, solar has a value to utilities of about 8.5 c/kWh, due to local generation, etc.
    In the future, that value likely would DECREASE, as more solar is built-out on a distribution grid, because:

    – Duck-curves would increase
    – Expensive storage would be required
    – Curtailment payments to owners would be required
    – More up/down ramping by gas turbines would be required.
    – More grid expansion/augmentation/MW would be required

  10. The people who want all renewable power are too stupid to comprehend that electricity must be generated the instant it is needed. You can’t do that when sun isn’t shining or the wind is not blowing. Battery storage cannot make up the instant power needed for those ‘hours’ of need.

    A few years back some companies tried to sell massive battery storage in Calif, with designs that used battery storage for the instant power needed for the minutes it would take for gas turbines to come up to full power to meet the demand. Regulators would not listen to how things actually work. Now they have blackouts, and there is no indication they are listening now. Vermont is being run by the same stupid people.

  11. It would be interesting to see where the power is actually being produced. Obviously not from solar or wind since the sun doesn’t shine at night nor does the wind blow all the time. Vermont is tied into the interstate grid. What actually powers the grid? This question is separate from who is the electric company paying for the power we use.

    To be truly renewable Vermont would have to be cut out of the grid.

  12. It would be interesting to see the list of witnesses and the organizations the House and Senate called for testimony on the Global Warning Solutions Act.

    Who were our legislators really interested in listening to? Was testimony taken to actually learn or to simply rationalize preconceived ideas held by legislators on global warming solutions?

    How much of the time for testimony was taken up by the renewable energy industry, its lobbyist and lawyers, who will profit handsomely by expanding solar and wind? How much time was take-up by the professional/paid activists and advocates of wind and solar such as VPRIG, CLF and others.

    How many technical witnesses were called who could to testify on the GWSA based on scientific, measurable and objective metrics that could predict and identify in advance the types of problems currently plaguing California?

    Or how about testimony from common sense Vermonters who could simply ask “How do we build a reliable and affordable energy generation system based on solar and wind, which are neither reliable nor affordable?”

    So who told the House and Senate what that has led to the GWSA…….A potential law that we know from California’s actual experience isn’t reliable and will not work……And when it doesn’t work, the State of Vermont will be sued by the activists and lawyers who initially testified in favor of GWSA.

  13. Sadly, the electric car debacle is pure fools gold. It allows those in the upper income to buy a subsidized vehicle at the expense of the hard working middle and lower Income folks. It is social engineering at it’s worst! Until those supporting the electric car industry pay the full price of the endeavor without subsidy AND also, pay their share of the upkeep of our roads currently tied to the gasoline tax, the industry should be summarily shut down.

    • Gary,
      The RE dreamers do not want to eliminate anything, such as EVs, because then where do you stop?

      One thing is for sure, a heat pump in an average Vermont house reduces CO2 by about 25 to 30%, plus the owner would have a financial loss, if the pump is amortized at 3.5% over 15 years, not counting any service calls and parts.

      Another thing is for sure, EVs reduce CO2 by very little, if they are compared with equivalent high MPG gasoline vehicles, plus those EVs cost about 1.5 to 2 times more than an equivalent gasoline vehicle.

      I will provide more details in subsequent comments.

      California has become a nutcase state since Reagan was governor.

      The Dem/Progs secure their tenure/control by bringing in low-cost, mostly Hispanic slave labor, who mostly end up voting Democrat

      That is the reason Dem/Progs are in favor of open borders or no borders.

      Trump has been frustrating their idiocies for almost 4 years, the reason they hate/fear him.

      Vermont wackos is trying to emulate dysfunctional California

      • Willem Post, I could not have stated any better !!

        Vermont “wackos” are trying to emulate dysfunctional California,
        Wake up people.

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