When talking about the management of California’s power grid, people’s eyelids will surely grow heavy before you finish making your point.
But how California’s power grid is managed is incredibly important. Think back to 2001 and California’s electricity crisis and the rolling blackouts.
I once had the chance to visit the California ISO headquarters, where they manage the state’s power grid. Looking around the main operations center, which resembles NASA’s mission control, you can see in real-time the power capacity and demand statewide.
California’s power grid is now back in the news. One of Gov. Jerry Brown’s top priorities in 2018 is a proposal to transform California’s state power grid to a regional one managed with our neighboring states.
A similar proposal died in the final days of the 2017 legislative session, but Brown is back for another try in his final year in office.
He argues that “renewable energy is not going to really make sense . . . without a regional grid.”
Ironically, some traditional Brown allies are concerned about his plan. According to Capitol Public Radio, they are worried that a regional power grid “could allow other states or the federal government to intervene in California’s power supply, for instance, pushing the state toward more coal usage.”
In fact, Brown’s original plan would have merged the state power grid with a company owned by Warren Buffet that owns two coal power plans in the west.
I would argue this criticism cuts both ways. A regional power grid would be influenced by other states, but more so by California, given our larger population, geography, and economy.
A regional power grid might be a backdoor to force other states to adopt expensive California proposals such as creating a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2045 or banning the sale of gas-powered cars.
Many moved away from California because energy prices are so expensive here. As PRI’s Kerry Jackson wrote last year, “California’s electricity rates are 67 percent higher than Nevada’s, 77 percent higher than Oregon’s, and 53 percent higher than Arizona’s.” He also notes that “California’s commercial and industrial electricity prices are often more than twice as high as its neighboring states.”
The last thing they want are significant electricity rate increases being pushed on them by Gov. Brown and California officials.
They say that as California goes, so goes the nation. California’s costly and unrealistic electricity mandates should be repealed or reformed, not exported to other states under the guise of regional governance.
Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.