Thursday, August 20, 2020

VA Clean Energy Act Signed while CA Struggles with Power Shortage

On Monday, Governor Northam signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act which establishes a mandatory renewable portfolio standard to achieve 30% renewable energy by 2030, a mandatory energy efficiency resource standard, and creates the path to a carbon-free electric grid by 2045. This took place as California, a pioneer in large scale solar and wind farms is struggling to keep the power amid inadequate electricity supplies during their current heat wave.

Rolling blackouts across California should serve as a cautionary tale for Virginia as we look to move to a carbon free electric grid. Though solar and wind can generate power without contributing to climate change, they cannot generate power round the clock. Over the past weekend rolling blackouts have swept through California due to inadequate power availability. This shortfall is due in part to demand for power peaking in early evening just as the solar arrays began their evening declines.

Solar and wind supply about of a third of California’s power. Despite still having gas turbines that can supply power at peak demand, California was not able to meet the full demand even with conservation orders. In part this was because California relies heavily on its neighbors- it is a net importer of electricity and the nearby states were also experiencing higher than usual demand. Virginia, too, is a net electricity importer.

This should serve as a cautionary tale for Virginia who is planning to eliminate all fossil fuels from the power grid and use batteries to cover serge demand. The Virginia Clean Economy Act proposes 16,100 megawatts of solar and onshore wind, 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind, and 2,700 megawatts of energy storage and states that they are in the public interest. Large scale batteries have the potential to help during brief periods of power scarcity, but it remains to be seen if the Virginia electric grid can maintain reliability without also mainlining some gas fired power generation. My solar production falls significantly during rainy periods and ceases entirely in the snow.

At the signing Governor Northam said: “Together, these pieces of legislation put the Commonwealth in position to meet the urgency of the climate crisis, and lead the transition to renewable energy in a way that captures the economic, environmental, and health benefits for all Virginians.” Let’s hope so. I lived through the power shortages in California in 2001 (sitting around without heat or electricity in the winter) and do not wish to repeat the experience in my golden years.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act not only establishes energy efficiency standards and new investments in solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, and energy storage, but additional legislation advances shared solar and energy storage programs, and dramatically transforms the rooftop solar market, and increase the allowable size of residential net-metered projects to 25 kwatt. The Governor also signed legislation directing the State Corporation Commission to determine when electric utilities should retire coal-fired or natural gas-fired electric generation facilities, and how utility customers should pay for this transition. I look forward to reading their report.

No comments:

Post a Comment