California facing electricity shortfall; looking to nuclear

California energy officials have suggested that the state’s electrical grid could face a shortfall if anticipated heatwaves, wildfires or other extreme events take their toll.

The announcement comes a week after operator Newsom said the state was open to keeping its remaining nuclear power plant running to maintain reliability.

In an update from three state agencies and the office of Governor Gavin Newsom, officials forecast a potential shortfall of 1,700 megawatts this year.

Supply gaps along certain lines could leave between 1 million and 4 million people without power. Outages will only happen under extreme conditions, officials cautioned, and will depend in part on the success of conservation measures.

In 2025, the state will still have a capacity shortfall of about 1,800 MW, according to officials from the California Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission, California Independent System Operator and Newsom’s office.

California’s electricity planning has been challenged as devastating wildfires have cut off transmission lines and extreme heat events and drought have hampered hydropower supplies.

Officials said traditional electricity demand forecasting does not account for such extreme events prompted by a changing climate.

At the same time, many solar farms and energy storage projects the state has commissioned over the last two years have been delayed due in part to supply chain challenges during the pandemic.

“We are in a place now where we have to factor in a new landscape in terms of the challenge in front of us with bringing the projects that we need online,” Karen Douglas, an adviser to Newsom, said during the briefing.

“We need to make sure that the we have sufficient new resources in place and operational before we let some of these retirements go,” said Mark Rothleder, COO at the California ISO grid operator.

“Otherwise we are putting ourselves potentially at risk of having insufficient capacity.”

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