California, a state that’s all-in for net-zero energy policies, recently announced it’s curtailing solar and wind power due to increased congestion of these sources. 

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO)—an independent entity overseeing the state’s electricity generations—says grid operators reduce wind and solar power during periods of congestion and oversupply. 

In the case of congestion, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes this occurs when transmission lines lack the capacity to deliver electricity generated by solar and wind. Congestion is a result of higher demand and a lack of supply to meet said demands. Unsurprisingly, congestion-related curtailments—especially those involving solar—have drastically increased since 2019. Curtailment of solar, in this case, usually occurs in spring when electricity demand is significantly lower, the agency noted

The EIA estimates solar farms accounted for the lion’s share of clean energy curtailments at a rate of “95% in 2022 and 94% in the first seven months of 2023.” 

“In 2022, CAISO curtailed 2.4 million megawatt hours (MWh) of utility-scale wind and solar output, a 63% increase from the amount of electricity curtailed in 2021,” the EIA said on October 31st. “As of September, CAISO has curtailed more than 2.3 million MWh of wind and solar output so far this year.”

But this isn’t the first time CAISO has implemented clean energy curtailments. As recently as April 2023, the agency curtailed a whopping 703,000 megawatts of electricity. And the previous April, it was reported over 596,000 megawatts of electricity were cut.

In fall 2022, California set out to be the global net-zero leader and unveiled a plan to achieve full decarbonization by 2045. The 2022 California Air Resources Board (CARB) Scoping Plan includes goals to cut air pollution by 77% and reduce gas consumption by 94%, for example. To meet these goals, an Edison International study estimates California will have to spend $370 billion on grid infrastructure and utility-scale clean energy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. 

Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA), however, argues his plan is not enough. Last month, he signed Senate Bill 253—the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act—into law. It’s a state version modeled after the proposed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Scope 3 emissions (upstream and downstream) rule to force corporations to disclose their carbon footprint emissions. California companies will have to track their individual emissions if their net earnings exceed $1 billion annually. But this mandatory reporting, lawyers argue, will invite “increased liability risk and compliance efforts.” 

Despite this push, blackouts and brownouts are a frequent occurrence in the Golden State. Per September 2023 Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) data, California residents—especially those in Los Angeles and Long Beach—pay, on average, $5.83 per gallon on gas, 42% percent higher than the national average ($4.17 per gallon). Similarly, these South California ratepayers pay 28.0 cents per kilowatt hour (KWh), or 63.7% more than the national average (17.1 cents per KWh). 

Much to the chagrin of California lawmakers, their state still relies heavily on oil and gas–with natural gas fueling 42% of electricity generation. California is also the seventh-largest producer of crude oil and third in oil refining capacity in the U.S.
To learn more about the shortcomings of net-zero energy policies, go HERE.