Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) arrived on the scene promising to deliver astounding amounts of uber-clean electricity to consumers it switched, without consumers’ knowledge, from Southern California Edison (Edison) into its own clean energy program.
A simple review identifies OCPA can’t even provide half of what it claims.
All Californians throughout the state receive the same mix of energy from California’s electric grid—the giant transmission towers and spiderweb of wires that span over the state and help deliver power from disparately located power plants.
Power flowing onto the grid is produced by a combination, or mix, of what is known as “base load” electricity and “intermittent” electricity.
OCPA’s misdirection takes root here.
California’s electric grid cannot function without a steady supply of electricity from base load resources flowing over its wires. Base load includes gas-fired, coal-fired, nuclear, geothermal, and large hydroelectric power plants.
Base load power is the foundation of California’s economy. Without it California’s electric grid would destabilize into immediate blackout. Accordingly, our grid operates with the following variables:
- A given amount of steady and reliable base load generation is required each day, throughout the day, depending on projected electricity demand for the state, including reactive power.
- Second, grid operators accommodate, or allow intermittent energy onto the electric grid in accordance with Sacramento law, AB 32, which encompasses the regulations for California’s clean energy rollout, the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Unlike base load, the electricity produced by intermittent resources (wind and solar) changes from moment-to-moment with wind speed and sunlight, and wreaks havoc for the electric grid’s primary need—balance of input electricity supply with California’s electricity demand. That “balance” also changes moment-to-moment, such as if you turn on an oven, or your neighbor switches off a pool pump.
When you see a windmill or solar panel, you know a gas-fired power plant or coal plant somewhere is ready to step in and produce additional electric power for the grid in an instant. The reality is renewable power requires a lot of base load type generation to hold its hand, a requirement that OCPA recently failed to satisfy when lining up inadequate supplies of back-up generation, earning itself a $2 million fine from California regulators.
A second compounding issue for solar power (and wind to a lesser extent) is the timing of its production. Rather than arriving to the grid as a steady supply over a 24-hour period, solar arrives in a giant wave. Everyday. That wave dwarfs California’s energy demand because much of the solar power cannot be consumed when it arrives.
The following image shows the daily arrival of this disruptive supply that must be addressed before the grid goes into an imbalanced condition where energy supply exceeds energy demand, causing a blackout.
California’s grid operators regularly order solar farms to stop sending much of their power to the grid, or order less of it. Nevada and Arizona are periodically paid to take California’s over-supply in a costly practice known as negative-pricing (paid for by OCPA).
All of these measures, which keep that over-supply of solar off the grid where it would cause a blackout and damage the system, are what the electric industry refers to as “curtailment.” Each of these cost OCPA money, your money in the form of higher …….