California to Build Temporary Gas Plants to Avoid Blackouts
(Bloomberg) -- California, a state that has been aggressively weaning its power grid off of fossil fuels, is now working on adding several natural gas-fired plants in an effort to keep the lights on this summer.
The California Department of Water Resources is in the process of procuring five temporary gas-fueled generators that have individual capacities of 30 megawatts, said spokesman Ryan Endean. The units will be installed at existing power plants and are expected to be operating by the middle of September.
The move comes after California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the power grid on concern about supply shortages during hot summer evenings when solar production wanes. The order, issued last month, aimed to free up energy supplies and speed up power plant development to help avert blackouts. It also temporarily lifted air-quality rules.
Earlier this year, California regulators balked at ordering utilities to add new gas-fired generation after environmental groups said it would run counter to the state’s decarbonization goals. Officials have been scrambling to shore up power resources ever since brief blackouts hit in August 2020 during an extreme heat wave.
The situation has become more dire this summer as a historic drought has reduced California’s hydroelectric supplies. The state has been retiring gas plants under a goal to have its grid carbon-neutral by 2045.
The California Energy Commission approved on Tuesday licenses for the emergency gas generators for up to five years.
“Governor Newsom’s emergency proclamation makes it very clear that all of our energy agencies have to act immediately to achieve energy stability during this emergency as well as accelerating plans for construction, procurement and rapid deployment of new clean-energy and storage projects,” Commissioner Karen Douglas said at the meeting.
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