Mark Specht

Energy analyst

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Mark Specht is an energy analyst for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In his role, he works to generate new research and policy solutions for integrating renewable energy into power grids, and scaling down reliance on fossil fuels in electricity systems throughout the Western states.

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Are California’s Rotating Blackouts a Sign of a Broken Grid?

This past weekend, California experienced two consecutive days of power outages, and more are possible in the days to come. Prior to this past week, this type of power outage had not happened in the state since the California Electricity Crisis almost two decades ago.

In the midst of a global pandemic and a west-wide heatwave, rolling blackouts—or rotating outages as the experts call them—are exactly the last thing Californians needed right now. For some, a power outage is just a minor inconvenience, but for others, power outages can be deadly.

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CAISO
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Why Did My Power Go Out? Four Ways the Grid Can Fail and Cause an Outage

There are many steps involved in delivering electricity to customers, and a power outage can be caused at any step along the way. First, power plants generate electricity. Then high voltage transmission lines move that electricity over long distances. Finally, the last leg of the journey happens on the distribution network, which delivers electricity to customers. Power outages can happen because of failures at any point in that process. Read more >

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Three Stimulus Package Priorities to Rebuild a More Equitable and Sustainable Economy

With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing our medical system to the brink and ravaging the nation’s economy, we must respond decisively and forcefully. Without a doubt, our nation’s top priority should be shoring up our public health efforts to keep people healthy and providing financial relief to the millions of people across the country who have suddenly lost their jobs.

At the same time, our leaders must start thinking ahead, creating strategies to revitalize the economy when this public health threat begins to subside. As members of Congress contemplate various economic stimulus options, our leaders should advance measures that emphasize job creation, benefit those most impacted by the pandemic, and rebuild the economy in a way that promotes the long-term interests of society.

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City of Del Mar, CA
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California’s Electric Sector is About to Veer Off Track in Fight Against Climate Change

For decades, California has been a world leader in the fight against climate change. But as the years pass by and California’s climate change goals become increasingly ambitious, the pathway to achieve the state’s goals is becoming more challenging. California’s electric sector has, historically, been the shining star of decarbonization, but now that the state needs its electric sector to ratchet down emissions faster than ever before, California’s electric sector is poised to let us all down Read more >

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Gas plant in California with pipeline in foreground

Why Can’t California Shake Its Natural Gas Habit?

California is a national leader in clean energy generation, but to fully transition away from fossil fuels in the electric sector, the state will need to expand its focus beyond energy and start taking a hard look at capacity.

California has a resource adequacy program, which ensures that the state has enough electricity generating capacity at the ready to keep the grid reliable year-round. Up until now, the data about the types of resources (natural gas plants, solar, energy storage, etc.) being used to satisfy those reliability requirements has not been publicly available. But at the urging of UCS and other organizations, that information is now being made public.

So now the numbers are in, and they paint a startling picture of California’s continued reliance on natural gas. After taking you through the numbers, I’ll talk about some of the solutions we already have and the ones we might still need.

Sit down, folks. This will take your (energy nerd) breath away.

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John Ciccarelli, BLM.
California Energy Commission
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