Climate change has been a proverbial mother throughout the country. Some places are having colder, harsher winters, and other places are hotter than ever. Still more places are soaked in precipitation. California, on the other hand, is nearly parched to a crisp.
The Golden State, once a glistening jewel of warmth, water and sunshine, has been suffering from lack of rain. California’s drought has become increasingly extreme over the past few years. It’s had a dire impact on the state’s climate, sucking water reservoirs and rivers dry, which ultimately leads to lower reserves for hydroelectric power plants. As a result, exploring diverse energy sources for California is more of a requirement than the leisurely option it tends to be for other states in America.
Cali’s diverse mix of solar, wind, hydro and gas energies safeguard them from an energy crisis, but that’s all thanks to strategic advanced planning by resource managers.
Edward Randolph, the director of energy division for the California Public Utilities Commission, said California’s preparedness is all thanks to “ample resources” prepared in the wake of prior electric emergencies like the 2001 energy crisis as well as intense heat storms experienced in 2006.
“California has wild swings in weather from year to year,” he tells National Geographic. “There are plenty of resources out there to meet shortfalls caused by extreme weather.”
California’s response was to increase diversification. Hydropower use has been on the decline; however, wind power consumption leapt from 2 to 5.2 percent of the overall energy consumption. Solar power use expanded from 0.3 to 1.5 percent and even usually stale and failing geothermal energy has increased in use.
California regulations require companies to keep 15 percent of excess energy in reserve for worst-case scenarios; however the state’s taking things even further by preparing to import their energy. Yes, you read this right: calculated budgeting has afforded California the privilege of being able to import power from nearby neighbors in the Pacific Northwest who’ve experienced above average precipitation.
Cal ISO’s Steven Greenlee reported that the company would be “able to import … excess capacity during those peak times when” California needs it. Sacramento Municipal Utility District stated they’ve set aside $35 million to mitigate increased power costs, so residents won’t see higher fees on their bills.
Admittedly though, despite “much drier than normal” conditions, California’s done a powerful job of managing their energy. Again, they’re keeping an extra 15 percent in reserves in case of emergencies and they report having adequate levels as things are.
California Drought Affects Population
Despite the good news, California cities are dealing with significant changes in population due to drought activity. Fresno County’s seen a significant drop in student attendance, thanks to families being forced to relocate.
Juan Garza, the Superintendent of the King’s Canyon School District in Fresno County, said the district estimated an increase in students, but ended up being down 75. The impact, he says, occurs because the district serves several farming towns where most people have agricultural jobs.
“What usually happens in situations like that is families make a decision and they inform the schools on Fridays and they leave over the weekend and they relocate and they’re gone,” he told KVPR.com. Considering the schools receive $34 to $40 per day for each child they teach, the loss adds up to a loss of $1.5 million.
Unfortunately, Garza doesn’t see the situation changing anytime soon either; in fact it’s expected to get worse as conditions continue, which means economic loss for the school district, the city and the kids.
“They’re impacted by the fact that ‘now I don’t know the teachers anymore,’ I don’t know the expectations, they don’t know me, they don’t know what my needs are,” he sympathizes.
That’s utterly sad; whoever thought this drought would have such an impact? Children’s lives are now being affected because their parents can’t work. Not only are hydroelectric power plants forced to invest in energy imports from the Pacific Northwest, but the money’s drying up for agriculture in California.
People are forced to uproot their lives and everything they know and travel to other parts of the state – and even the country, in order to rebuild their lives and have some sense of financial and economic stability. Can you imagine suddenly pulling your kids out of school, packing your life in a moving van and headed up North or toward the East in search of financial stability? How can one possibly move forward without feelings of fear, guilt and distress over possibly leaving everything they’ve ever known to move toward a better future?
California’s Natural Gas – Economic Boon in Face of Trouble?
So if hydropower fails, what’s the next backup? Natural gas, which is the second cheapest source of energy. The challenge with using natural gas, however, is managing costs. Natural gas emits higher emissions and has procurement costs. As such, coupled with the laws of supply and demand, you and I both know this means utility companies are going to make energy prices soar.
I think it’s clear as day when energy directors like Randolph admit because natural gas is controllable, it’s more of an economic asset than wind or solar power. Yes, California’s renewables benefit the energy situation, but the government can never release the economic certainty of natural gas as an energy resource.
Overall though, look at how California manages energy. Perhaps it’s time the rest of America follows suit? Energy is one of the most important resources we have. Most places rely solely upon natural gas for power. By adding diverse energy sources into the power supplies for each state, we’ll be able to provide energy alternatives in case of natural disasters, weather emergencies and other disturbances.
Nuclear energy would be particularly amazing for Cali. As long as we require the owner and his family to live within 50 feet of the facility, we’ll be safe. If anything were to go wrong, they’d be the first to know because their kids will be the ones walking around with three sets of eyes. How’s that for nuclear vision?