Gavin Newsom gets something right on energy

Source: Hot Air

This is a statement that we rarely get to make around here, so when the opportunity presents itself we shouldn’t let it go by. California Gavin Newsom has gotten something right on a very important policy point that the entire nation is either already grappling with or will be quite soon. Green energy activists have been pushing for years to force the early closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the state’s last nuclear power facility. And up until this year, Newsom was singing along with the choir. But as Jim Geraghty reports at National Review, he is now singing a different tune. Newsom has determined that it is not practical to shut down Diablo Canyon’s two remaining reactors in 2024 and 2025 and the state will likely need to keep them in operation until at least 2035. And the Democrats who control the state legislature are not happy about this at all.

This morning, the odd and consequential news is that Gavin Newsom — yes, that Gavin Newsom — is on the right side of a political issue, both ideologically and factually. The California governor contends that his state isn’t ready to give up nuclear power, and he’s getting into an increasingly heated fight with environmental activists over keeping the state’s sole nuclear plant open.

The state’s last nuclear-power plant, Diablo Canyon, is scheduled to shut down its two reactors in 2024 and 2025; those reactors currently produce about 9 percent of the state’s electrical energy. Earlier this month, Newsom proposed keeping the two units of the Diablo Canyon online until 2029 and exploring the option of extending the plant’s life through 2035. He’s proposing a $1.4 billion loan from the state’s general fund to Pacific Gas & Electric, the operator of the plant, to cover the cost of relicensing the plant.

Back in May, state energy officials warned that the state’s power grid and supply systems lacked “sufficient capacity to keep the lights on this summer and beyond if heatwaves, wildfires or other extreme events take their toll. . . . The officials forecast a potential shortfall of 1,700 megawatts this year, a number that could go as high as 5,000 MW if the grid is taxed by multiple challenges that reduce available power while sending demand soaring.

The state legislature is still pushing a plan based largely on offering tax credits for poor people to put solar panels on their roofs (for those who still have roofs, anyway). Their plan also includes mandating the use of lower wattage lightbulbs and more efficient cooling technology. (Read: turn off your air conditioners.) A Newsom spokesperson appeared to set up the battle lines, saying the legislative plan sounds like “fantasy and fairy dust and reflects a lack of vision and a lack of understanding about the scope of the climate problem.”

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

The projected energy shortfall from the analysis linked above would leave anywhere from one to four million people without power, depending on the severity of the demand spike and the lack of new power for the grid. And we’re not just talking about planned rolling blackouts here. That’s the number of California residents who could see their power go out entirely with no projected date or time when it might come back on. It’s not just a question of the grid being old and unstable (it is both), but the sheer fact that the state isn’t producing enough energy to keep the juice flowing.

Diablo Canyon currently produces nearly ten percent of the electricity used in California. In a state that is already under rolling blackouts while facing warnings of more disruptions on the way, do you think they can afford to shut down one-tenth of their electrical supply? I’m not going overboard on my praise here for Gavin Newsom because this is a math problem that shouldn’t stump a fifth-grader. But he still deserves credit for getting this one thing right.

Now let’s imagine if the long-term plan went in a different direction. Diablo Canyon produces almost 10 percent of California’s electrical energy. Rather than shutting it down to please the environmental lobby, imagine if they built four new Small Module Reactors of equivalent size. They have more than enough room in areas that are well away from the fault zones where most of the earthquakes happen.

In not that many years, they could be producing half of the electricity the state needs to survive without using an ounce of any sort of fossil fuels. Keep in mind that a lot of California’s current power is hydroelectric, generated by dams around the state. But as water levels continue to fall, those plants will be producing less energy if not going offline entirely. Fusions reactors are still many decades away. California needs to build up its nuclear energy capabilities and restore its natural gas generation stations. This is a solvable problem if they can manage to shut down the leftist rhetoric for a while and do what needs to be done. And at least for once, Gavin Newsom seems to be on the right page.