The transition away from hydrocarbons is not a seamless as many hope. The latest data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows a significant decline this year in hydropower generation amid historic droughts.
The magical thinking about renewable energy and President Biden's calls for the U.S. power grid to be 100% clean by 2035 is a pipe dream.
The problem with renewable energy is sustainability. California and states in the Pacific Northwest have found out that out the hard way this summer as droughts and back-to-back heat waves have led to a plunge in hydropower capacity. The region produces a bulk of U.S. hydropower capacity.
EIA estimates U.S. hydropower plants will be 14% lower in 2021 than it was in 2020. Hydropower generation in the Northwest, which includes the Columbia River Basin and parts of other Rocky Mountain states, is expected to be 12% lower than the prior year. Hydropower generation in California will be down a shocking 49% in 2021 than in 2020.
The dry conditions have reduced water levels across large parts of the Columbia River Basin this summer, drought emergencies were declared in counties across Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Some reservoirs in California halted hydropower generation due to declining water levels.
Between March and April, hydropower generation in Washington and Oregon was 10% below the 10-year range. Over the summer, hydropower generation in these states moved back within range. But in California, hydropower generation stayed below the 10-year range as the Edward Hyatt Power Plant at Lake Oroville went offline due to low water levels last month.
This summer, California's energy challenges show the state's aggressive push to slash carbon emissions by shifting to renewable energy has its disadvantages. The state's top grid operator, California Independent System Operator (CAISO), requested and was granted an emergency measure by the federal government to fire up natural gas generation plants to prevent blackouts amid the loss of some renewable energy sources.
Maybe it's time for California to admit their "green" push has been a complete disaster, and the transition is not going to be as seamless as once thought. But wait, they already have:
- CAISO admitted in August that "significant swings in wind resource output" resulted in the grid operator to "shed load to maintain system reliability."
- California's government acknowledged in a recent bond offering that greenifying the economy could put the grid at risk.
The short-term strategy for California has been to fire up fossil fuel generation plants as renewable energy sources become unreliable. This is just one ugly truth about renewable power the progressives don't want you to hear.