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California begs feds to pollute more in electricity provision. Wonder why?

ZeroHedge noticed something:

A stunning new revelation in the state’s top grid operator, California Independent System Operator, filing to US Department of Energy (DoE), titled “Request for Emergency Order Pursuant to Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act,” requested the federal government to declare an “electric reliability emergency” so it can use more fossil fuel power generation to prevent blackouts.

“An emergency order will allow the CAISO to dispatch additional generation that may be necessary for the CAISO to meet demand in the face of extremely challenging conditions including extreme heat waves, multiple fires, high winds, and various grid issues,” the filing read.

CAISO wants the DoE to suspend air-pollution rules so it can use natural gas turbines as “back-up power generation and freeing up additional energy capacity to help alleviate electric demand on the electricity grid.”

Such a request is no surprise to anyone who has been reading our warnings about Gov. Cooper’s “clean energy” plan (see, e.g., Donald van der Vaart’s series and his discussion of Cooper steering us to California-esque blackouts) and, more recently, my recent comments to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management regarding the massive wind facility proposed off the coast.

As I wrote to the BOEM (and these comments apply to solar generation as well, since they are both intermittent resources at the mercy of nature — wind and sun),

Intermittence necessitates greenhouse gas emissions from background generation. Inherent in the nature of wind generation is the inescapable issue of nondispatchability, unreliability, and variability. A facility that generates power by wind is ipso facto also at the mercy of the wind. For such intermittent sources, their “maximum dependable capacity is 0 MW.”

That quotation is from Strata Solar’s application to build a solar facility on property owned by none other than Gov. Roy Cooper: “Solar is an intermittent energy source, and therefore the maximum dependable capacity is 0 MW.”

Also, we just saw a very expensive confirmation of this problem in the U.K., where they were paying close to $7,000 per MWh for gas-fired generation because “the wind didn’t blow.” Continuing (with emphasis added):

For that reason, a wind resource requires a backup generation source, which must be dispatchable and which is invariably a fossil-fuel source. Reliance on such a source erases some if not all of the gains in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it could even create greater GHGs than otherwise. For example, Duke Energy Progress in 2018 requested the North Carolina Division of Air Quality to modify its permit for a “relaxation of short term emission limit” of its Richmond County Combustion Turbine Facility to allow for its use in supplementing solar photovoltaic installations.

In other words, we’re already seeing here the utility needed to increase greenhouse gas emissions to account for adding intermittent and unreliable “clean energy” to the grid. Continuing:

Were this combustion turbine facility not to be used as backup generation for an intermittent source, Duke would not have needed to request permission from the state Division of Air Quality for greater GHG emissions. Instead, Duke’s requested modification would have allowed the turbines to throttle on and off as needed at low-load idling operation instead of from being completely switched on and off. Duke’s scenario was to emit 381 pounds of nitrous oxides daily, up from 264 lbs. (a 44.3 percent increase in NOx emissions), in order to avoid the greater increase of 624 lbs. (a 236 percent increase).

In either scenario, addition of a nondispatchable source ostensibly to lower GHG emissions results in, owing to its inherent need for backup generation, markedly greater emissions.

In fact, as Dan Way showed in his North State Journal exposé,

Duke spokeswoman Kim Crawford confirmed that increased solar power on the state’s electric grid is increasing emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), a dangerous air pollutant. She said that reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could also reverse if current solar growth continues without policy changes. …

In a series of e-mail exchanges for this article, Crawford provided information from a team of Duke subject matter experts confirming NOx emissions would be lower if there were no solar power on the electric grid.

Without any solar power in the mix, “a typical combined cycle combustion turbine emits NOx at approximately 9-11 lb/hr, assuming 24 hours of ‘normal’ operation,” Crawford said. That is equivalent to 264 pounds of NOx emissions daily. When those same plants are operated to supplement solar power facilities, daily emissions more than double to 624 pounds a day, based on a table in Duke’s application.

If DEQ agrees to Duke’s alternative operating scenario, a combustion turbine would emit 381 pounds of NOx daily — still 44% more pollution than operating without any solar power on the grid.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...