California Extends Three Natural Gas Power Plants

Last week, California’s State Water Resources Control Board approved a plan to keep three natural gas plants open through 2026. The Ormond Beach, Long Beach and Huntington Beach plants were slated to close this year, but due to the threat of extreme weather and an already unreliable grid, the plants will remain online.

The natural gas plants can provide power for more than 2.5 million homes and will be essential should rolling blackouts occur. While extreme summer weather has plagued California in the past, an ever-increasing demand for electricity has weakened the grid’s reliability. In 2022, California Independent System Operator—responsible for managing the state’s power grid—asked residents to reduce their electricity consumption due to high temperatures. Notably, a week prior to the alert from the state’s grid operator, the California Air Resources Board approved a measure that would require all new cars and light trucks sold in California to be zero-emission vehicles, which will significantly increase the electricity demand across the state.

Measures such as the EV mandate in 2022 and the extension of the natural gas power plants this year illustrate the contradiction between policies and reality. If California does not recognize the fragility of its grid over the long term, especially as more and more EVs connect to the grid, the state could be heading towards an emergency. An all-of-the-above approach to energy security must be prioritized across the country, but especially in states like California. Traditional fuel sources, such as natural gas, offer cheap and reliable energy while states transition their grids to renewables and embrace EVs. This energy transition cannot be rushed and must be approached pragmatically in order to avoid soaring costs for consumers, and potential blackouts.

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