Gas plant in California with pipeline in foreground

Why Can’t California Shake Its Natural Gas Habit?

, Energy analyst

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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Moss Landing Power Plant stacks visible behind the dunes.

Why Isn’t California Turning Down the Gas?

, Energy analyst

California is currently going through a short-term hiatus on shutting down gas plants due to emerging grid reliability concerns. But in the long term, the state is well positioned to continue turning down the gas.

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Wayne Hsieh/Flickr
California Public Utilities Commission
Mark Specht
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PV system at Lick Wilmerding school in San Francisco, California
PV system at Lick Wilmerding School, San Francisco, California mjmonty/Flickr

Climate Change Affects Students’ Well-Being: Case Study of Extreme Heat in San Joaquin Valley and Need for Climate-Smart Schools

, Western states senior climate analyst

Schools are expected to provide safe and healthy environments for children to learn and grow. Yet many are ill-equipped to protect them from the heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and droughts that are happening in increasing number and severity across the nation. The repercussions can be huge, affecting school finances, students’ health and academic performance, and communities. The repercussions can be huge, affecting school finances, students’ health and academic performance, and communities. Read more >

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California Wildfires and Power Outages Signal Long Road Ahead, But Climate Ambition Sets the Right Course

, Senior Energy analyst

In California, this fall marked the third consecutive year of catastrophic blazes ripping across the state. It marked the first year in which those blazes were accompanied by the widescale deployment of multi-day, multi-city pre-emptive power outages.

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Forest Service Photo by Kari Greer
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A chromolithograph print of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago
Bird's-eye view of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 Library of Congress, no known restrictions on publication.

The Current War: Why Did Westinghouse (AC) Beat Edison (DC)?

, Energy analyst

As communities across California face widespread power outages and the debate over how to keep the grid reliable rages on, I decided to go to the movies for some historical context on our electric grid, seeing The Current War: Director’s Cut on opening night. With a big-name cast, my hopes were high, but the movie was just OK.

It’s a shame the movie wasn’t more compelling, because this is a fascinating story that deserves much more attention. The movie portrays the late 19th century “war” between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison that would ultimately determine which technologies were used to build the foundation of the electric grid we use today. While Edison championed direct current (DC) systems, Westinghouse promoted alternating current (AC) systems, and the competition between the two was fierce.

While walking out of the theater, I couldn’t stop wondering: why exactly did Westinghouse’s AC systems triumph over Edison’s DC systems?

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Library of Congress, no known restrictions on publication.
Creative Commons
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