Comment: State can avoid California’s failures on clean energy

The state’s clean energy goals are laudable, but that energy must also be reliable and affordable.

By George Caan and Kent Lopez / For The Herald

Recently, the state of California took the extraordinary step of walking back its clean energy laws and federal environmental regulations as the state’s electricity needs threatened to exceed available energy. Without this quick action, Californians faced brownouts. Over-reliance on wind and solar failed in California, increasing carbon emissions as the state had to temporarily operate carbon-emitting gas and diesel generators to support the grid.

This is not just a California issue; we have already had near misses in Washington state. During the heatwave this past summer, the region’s largest federal energy supplier, the Bonneville Power Administration, urged electricity consumers in Eastern Washington to conserve energy to avoid brownouts. While the lower Snake River dams saved the day, running at full capacity to provide hydropower, the incident was a shot across the bow; a California-esque warning that if we aren’t smart with our transition to a clean energy future, we will be left in the dark, literally.

Washington’s recently updated State Energy Strategy outlines ambitious goals to use the state’s clean energy to electrify other sectors of our economy to reduce carbon emissions, namely transportation and buildings. This will significantly increase electricity demand. The strategy states, “The modeling suggests that electricity demand in Washington could grow by 13-20 percent over 2020 levels by 2030. Electricity demand then accelerates and by 2050 is up to 92 percent above the 2020 level.”

At the same time demand is projected to increase, Washington utilities are mandated under the state’s clean energy laws to eliminate carbon-emitting energy resources such as coal and natural gas. In addition, there are calls to remove dams that generate carbon-free electricity and are critical to integrating intermittent energy resources such as wind and solar that only produce electricity when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining.

As we make this transition to our clean energy future, we must prioritize the reliability of the electric grid and the affordability of this essential service. Energy policies, regulations, and rules that seek to overturn the laws of physics will fail us. Such policies have already failed California. We must ensure our electricity resources and grid are not just clean but also reliable and affordable. Remove one leg of the three-legged stool and our clean energy future collapses.

Striving for cleaner sources of energy is a laudable goal. Renewable energy is one way to get there, including hydropower, which is not only clean and renewable, but is available 24 hours a day, unlike solar and wind generation. Nuclear energy is also a non-emitting generating resource and is also available 24 hours a day. We must consider cleaner, more efficient natural gas generation as well. We should do everything we can, with attention to reliability and affordability, to bring resources online that can power our economy, generate less carbon and not be a financial burden to our citizens and communities.

We can achieve our goals: a clean energy future with high reliability and low costs. We will fail, however, if we don’t fully understand the ramifications of our policy decisions today. We must prioritize reliability and affordability along with decarbonization. We must learn from California to avoid becoming California.

George Caan is executive director of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association. Kent Lopez is executive director of the Washington Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Dec. 1

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

An artist's rendering shows features planned for the first floor of an expansion of the Imagine Children's Museum. The area will include a representation of the old bicycle tree in Snohomish and an outdoorsy Camp Imagine. (Imagine Children's Museum)
Editorial: GivingTuesday offers chance to build better future

Organizations, such as Imagine Children’s Museum, need our support as we look past the pandemic.

Everett should keep Small Business Saturday focused on locals

I was downtown Everett on Nov. 27 to do a bit of… Continue reading

Why did judge release killer on promise to appear?

I find in incredible that Superior Court Judge Karen Moore was naive… Continue reading

CRT issue is hiding racism of some

The recent election brought some new faces to our school boards, but… Continue reading

Democrats have been behind physical attacks, not anime tweets

Regarding Alexandra Petri’s article in the Nov. 28 Sunday Herald “How to… Continue reading

Comment: With omicron lurking, retailers should seek mandate

They fear workers will quit, but they’re more likely to lose workers and customers to a covid surge.

Comment: A lesson for Congress’ Jan. 6 committee from 1856

A panel investigating an attack of a senator by a congressman ended with mixed results for all parties.

Comment: Towns, rural areas have lost banks; now drug stores

Along with the closure of bank branches, chain drug stores now are pulling out of some neighborhoods.

Most Read