The Times Are A Changin’

Author: Velocity Suite Natural Gas Analyst

Drought in California is no new event, though it has been thrown into sharp relief with Governor Jerry Brown’s declaration of a Drought State of Emergency last January. Since 2012, California has experienced its lowest precipitation levels since record keeping first began 118 years ago. The effects within the state are widespread and have led to water usage curtailments that alter not only the environmental landscape and how people live their lives, but how the state generates and distributes its electricity.

CA Climate Zones2
Figure 1: EV Weather – Drought Conditions by Climate Zone

CA Generation Mix by Fuel Type2
Figure 2: EV Power – Monthly Plant Generation & Consumption

Over the past ten years, California’s generation fuel mix has undergone a dramatic shift. A lack of precipitation and steadily dwindling water supplies have lowered generation from hydropower to 8% of total generation in 2014; down from 20% in 2005. With reservoirs reaching historic lows, the need for alternative fuel sources to meet demand has seen rapid development. California’s strict emissions standards largely negate coal as an option and with the recent shutdown and planned decommissioning of the San Onofre nuclear facility in San Diego, natural gas – with its cleaner-burning nature and overall flexibility – has remained the single greatest source for filling gaps in the generation market. Natural gas has accounted for a staggering 61% of total state generation so far in 2014.

CA Fossil Fuel Gen and Consumption2
Figure 3: EV Power – Monthly Plant Generation & Consumption

CA Renewables Gen and Consumption2
Figure 4: EV Power – Monthly Plant Generation & Consumption

This shift in the fuel mix is not solely due to drought conditions but also that of the California Renewables Portfolio Standard, which includes a plan by the state to have 33% of its energy come from renewables by 2020. The use of wind and solar power has grown substantially since 2005, now providing the state with 18% of its energy needs. These renewables will continue to see the broadest gains over other fuel sources as California works toward reducing its carbon footprint while meeting its RPS goals.

Read More About California Climate Change:

The California Weather Blog – An overview of California’s ongoing and extraordinary drought: a tale of exceptional dryness and record warmth

California Turns to Natural Gas as Drought Stifles Hydroelectric Power


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