Californias Impending Grid Problem
by Ronald Stein
Can the California grid handle the charging challenges for the EVs the state is promoting to be on the grid? The knee-jerk reaction to going green as fast as possible has the potential to crash Californias already fragile economy. No ones even talking about the load its going to put on the current grid. The silence is deafening.
The Electric Load-Serving Entities (LSEs) in California that includes Investor Owned Utilities inclusive of such major entities as Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and a multitude of Public Owned Utilities are mum on the subject.
The Golden State already has more than 50% of all registered EVs in the United States on its highways and is moving to increase that number by millions in the coming years. Utility companies, that need to maintain the electrical grids capability to charge the batteries without crashing from overload, and the subsequent PUC increased rate changes to the pocketbooks of blue-collar workers, fret in their boardrooms about the impending foreseeable disaster on the horizon yet they present their no-worries face to the public.
The California State Assembly and Senate passed legislation that was signed by former Governor Jerry Brown requiring 100% of its electricity to be generated from renewables by the year 2045. Thus, no electricity generated from Nuclear or Natural Gas in California by 2045. Damn the torpedoes, they say. Full speed ahead!
Natural gas-fired power plants accounted for most of Californias in-state net electricity generation in 2018. However, to meet the 100% clean energy requirement by 2045, the base loading of natural gas and nuclear for electric generation will be gradually supplanted by increased renewable energy.
Recently the San Bernardino Countys Board of Supervisors slammed the brakes on big solar projects and highlighted a challenge California could face as it seeks to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. San Bernardino locals soundly voiced their objections to those land devouring, eco system disrupting, unsightly monstrosities that lead to higher electricity prices and lower property values for nearby residents, saying not-in-my-back-yard! So, with no places to locate the renewables farms, whats next?
In the most likely event there will not be enough land permitted to build those huge intermittent electricity farms, and with continuously uninterruptable electricity generation now supplied by nuclear and natural gas disappearing from the grid, electricity will be required to be imported from other states to make up the deficiencies of limited in-state generation, obviously at a premium price for the blue collar workers.
The goal to have 100% intermittent electricity by 2045 has already driven up the cost of electricity to residents and businesses to be well above the national average. The scary trends for funds and oil are both fueling (no pun intended) the growth of the poverty, homeless, and welfare populations in California.
In California alone, intermittent electricity from low power density renewables is expensive to consumers. It has already contributed to California household users paying more than 50% more, and industrial users are paying more than 100% more than the national average for electricity.
Seems that few, especially the utility companies, have voiced an opinion about how the costs projections to supply the massive amount of electricity to charge 25 or 30 million vehicles in California would impact the blue-collar workers from obvious higher rates authorized by the PUC. Its not just the total amount of electricity, but also transmission and fast-charging capacity that will need to be built at our current filling stations.
A Canadian engineer has walked through the math of the change to EVs, and concludes that to match the energy equivalent of a typical gasoline filling station today to service the 2,000 cars that those gas pumps could service in a busy 12-hour period, an electric filling station would require 600 of the 50kW chargers for a roadside station. Even that conservative estimate would require a $24-million investment at one station just for the cheapest chargers.
For those chargers, they would need about 30 megawatts of power from the grid. For those thinking that seems like an incredible amount of electricity, youre right. Thirty megawatts is enough to power roughly 20,000 homes. In other words, powering these service stations of the future will require about the same amount of electricity as a city of 75,000 residents. Oh, and by the way, all that electricity, unlike off-hour home recharging, happens during peak-usage daylight hours. I see brownouts and blackouts in Californias future. Carry a bag lunch. This could get ugly.
In addition to the huge investments at the electric service stations, utility companies will have to spend gazillions of dollars building a new grid or billions to upgrade the grid to prevent it from crashing, which will further drive up the cost of electricity for everyone just so a few elites can drive Teslas and the like.
Even at fast-charging stations, to fully charge an EV takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours depending on how much of a charge (empty to full or topping off) your vehicle needs. The added cost of lounge areas charging stations would need to install and maintain or the holding areas for vehicles fully charged where their customers are off-sight dining, shopping or at work while their vehicles are plugged in will be passed on to the consumer.
Blue collar workers in California represent the 95% of the residents not contributing significantly to the General Fund. Most of them are not able to afford an EV. In spite of that they will start picking up a higher percentage of the revenue directed to the General Fund and help subsidize grid infrastructure, charging technology, and the endless list of government programs that are now principally funded by the 5%; the higher income residents.
Adding EV charging requirements onto the grid while simultaneously removing continuously uninterruptable electricity generation by nuclear and natural gas from the grid, and the expected difficulties of finding huge acreage for renewable farms, may be Californias silent and secretive formula for disaster to the economy.
This piece originally appeared on CFACT.org.
Ronald Stein is Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure at PTS Advance, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine.
Todd Royal is a committee member for the California energy and electrical committee for the American Society of Civil Engineers; and an energy consultant focusing on the geopolitics of energy directly related to foreign policy, national security and domestic exploration and production based in Los Angeles. He can be reached via Twitter @TCR_Consulting.