The Problem With California’s Electric Dream

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Yves here. I’m old enough to remember California’s 1990 zero emissions vehicle mandate, which required 2% of all vehicles sold starting in 1997 to be zero emissions. New York and Massachusetts adopted similar mandates. I drove a GM prototype ZEV,  an electric car with nickel metal hydrate batteries, in 1992. It was cute but had terrible acceleration. And the lack of charging stations would have been a problem. I recommended against investing in advanced battery technology then because the prices were way out of line (due to the mandate) relative to the prospects for delivering performance in automobiles that consumers would accept any time soon.  California abandoned the mandate in 1995 and the eastern states followed suit.

By Irina Slav. Originally published at OilPrice

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom last week announced that the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines would be banned from 2035 in the state administration’s latest effort to reduce its carbon footprint. The move was praised by environmentalists and carmakers alike – the latter already having committed billions to build an EV presence. But there is one problem the Golden State might want to fix by 2035 if the ban is to work: its power supply.

Last month, California was threatened by the first rolling blackouts in about two decades as a heatwave led to a spike in electricity consumption. This, in turn, revealed that the state’s demand exceeded its supply – including imported electricity – and ignited a debate about whether it had grown its renewable energy generation capacity too aggressively for its own good.

The debate is important if California plans on letting millions of EVs on its roads in less than two decades. These EVs will add to the demand for electricity, and there is no guarantee whatsoever they would need this electricity in off-peak hours. In the meantime, California will continue expanding its renewable capacity but likely not gas capacity. According to some, this could be a problem because gas provides an essential baseload when solar and wind can’t supply power to the grid. Others, however, have brushed off these concerns.

The president of the California Independent System Operator, the state grid’s manager, recently told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that the problem was more complex than some made it out to be. A shortage of imports and mostly the fact that California’s grid operates “too close to the margin” were at the heart of the outages.

“We knew coming into the day on Friday that we were going to be tight, but that’s not unusual,” Stephen Berberich told the LA Times. “We’re often tight. And imports generally take care of the gap. In this case, because it was hot in the West, we weren’t able to get the imports we would normally get. Renewables are not at the heart of the issues we had on Friday night.”

Yet renewables do bear improvement in the form of batteries, which, according to Berberich, could help with the load problem. However, they won’t solve it on their own. Solar, he noted, is not available 24/7. In fact, “Solar has virtually no value in the net peak hours, in the evening.” This intermittency has plagued solar – and, perhaps to a lesser extent, wind – for years. Batteries are getting bigger and better, but they have a long way to go before they can completely replace power plants with a constant supply of fuel.

In other words, the California grid is quite vulnerable to outages, especially during the summer season. This summer, when authorities asked Californians to conserve energy to prevent blackouts, they did. But can the authorities prescribe EV charging times to alleviate the load on the grid? This will hardly work with millions of people.

Electricity demand in California could jump by 25 percent if all passenger vehicles on its roads are electric, the Wall Street Journal’s Russell Gold wrotelast week, citing calculations done by experts. This is a major demand increase even if it is hypothetical: California will not be banning existing ICE cars from the road, only new sales. Sales of used ICE cars will also be allowed after 2035. But the goal is clear enough: make EVs the dominant mode of transportation. And this will cost the grid.

There has been an idea to use EVs to actually supply power to the grid when needed, but it has been fraught with problems that, for now, make it impractical. That’s all right because the millions of EVs that the idea envisages as grid supporters have yet to hit the road. For now, the only other idea about how to cope with the situation is adapting the grid to the higher demand: upgrading the transmission and distribution equipment to handle the stronger demand from households, since most EVs are charged at home.

One utility, the WSJ’s Gold reported, has also suggested incentivizing people to charge their cars during off-peak hours to avoid overloading the grid. For now, the best time to do this seems to be the middle of the day. Trying to make millions of people charge their EVs during the middle of the day could be challenging despite any incentives utilities might think of. And in case it does work, the additional EVs would just turn into another peak demand period, potentially threatening more outages in its own right since most drivers would want to fast-charge their EVs if they would be charging them at noon instead of at night, at home.

Reconciling California’s grid vulnerability with its EV ambitions will require a lot of work—work that needs to get underway now. Currently, EVs comprisejust a tenth of California’s car demand. This may change by 2035, and with the proper incentives, it probably will. So, the grid needs to be prepared for the surge in EVs that would need charging because the heatwaves during the summer are unlikely to go away.

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101 comments

  1. Noone from Nowheresville

    Issues from flyover country. Yeah, not California.

    Okay, so you live in a snow / ice belt in flyover country. Major ice storm and electrical power is knocked out for 3 weeks in your neighborhood. Plus the cold saps the remaining charge in your EV, what’s ya gonna do? Your neighbors?

    The streets of your snow belt city are filled to the brim with snow. In fact, the city has declared one side street parking for the next two months because there’s nowhere to go with the snow and the snowplows can’t get through. The apartment building or the house you live in doesn’t have off-street parking or any charging station. Street parking stations, if there were any, are buried by snow. So where are all the charging stations for people who park on the streets? Or perhaps we’re saying that they can’t have cars and must use city transport? What type of equipment will one need to jump and charge a dead EV battery once the city declares a snow emergency? Will the city tow lots have charging stations?

    Reply
    1. cnchal

      > What type of equipment will one need to jump and charge a dead EV battery once the city declares a snow emergency?

      A tow truck with an internal combustion engine is the first one. A shop with electric power is next, then pay a $1,000 bill and you are good to go..

      Reply
      1. Noone from Nowheresville

        So in other words, no cars for those who can’t afford ’em. I guess that goes together with bike lanes taking the place of car lanes on major traffic arteries.

        So at least we know there is a multi-pronged cohesive plan on where we’re going on vehicles. No vehicles for you!

        I guess that tax on time with city transport, assuming that city transport even goes to where one needs it at the time of day that one needs it, will increase. Heaven forbid that you have to carry anything of consequence.

        Reply
        1. Rex

          Car ownership & maintenance are already a fairly steep price of entry to getting by in too many places. As for carrying anything of consequence, are you hauling consequential loads on every single drive? Carshares also exist and are viable.

          Reply
          1. Noone from Nowheresville

            Car ownership used to be doable on minimum wage.

            I lived in the middle of somewheresville for decades and walked a lot. So please don’t consequential load me. I know the reality of what it meant to have a car in that environment as well as the tax on time if one didn’t. I also know what it means in nowheresville.

            Car shares are viable if one has a credit card and then only in the city core. You also have to get to the car share location and schedule the reservation. Yes, it’s viable but it doesn’t scale in large numbers. And Uber type transit gets expensive fast.

            These are purposeful government policies on freedom of movement vs. environmental concerns. They should only be legit if they include all the stakeholders and count all the environmental costs (Amazon / grocery store delivery services, battery / engine recycling, skill loss since ordinary people can’t work on these cars) vs. required public investments (charging stations for one) v. additional public austerity cuts (e.g. losing transit routes / service times).

            That’s not happening so what’s the real purpose of forcing EV or adding bike routes to bottleneck traffic.

            Reply
            1. d

              and only if you use them infrequently, i.e. shouldnt use them to get work every week. its just not cost effective, and some times its not even safe, since the ride share companies really dont care. and until they actually do more than have PR campaigns, that wont change. the defense that they are a technology company. doesnt cut it. just a PR spin nothing else.

              i dont think any one is forcing EV, CA may not allow sales of new ICE vehicles, but there are how many current ones? multiple million of them? short of some sort of crush them program, they will be around for at least a decade.
              course CA isnt the only government that has set a end of new car sales date.
              guessing the bike routes are to make up for the fact that the average new car cost is over 30,000. now there are lots of cheaper cars, but if you hadnt noticed car companies seem to be ending production of them, that it wont be long till there are none to see from any company, at least in the US anyway. and because wages have been declining for decades, fewer and fewer can afford them, nor can they afford to live near work as a rule

              Reply
        2. Adam Eran

          We’ve spent at least two, possibly three generations building sprawl. Every single trip must be in an auto, and viable (self-supporting) transit is impossible. Of course it’s unhealthy, building exercise *out* of the city, and it is a regressive “tax” requiring everyone to own and operate a car.

          Building cities like this are not required. Throughout history, mixed-use (residences, offices, commerce, etc.) pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods was the rule. People could walk. Even now, people pay premiums to live in such neighborhoods.

          James Kunstler and Andres Duany have written extensively about this. City design as sprawl is one of the key ways to deprecate the public realm. It’s neoliberalism in concrete.

          Reply
          1. d

            some time they may a premium, but others might point to the difference in how much housing costs in center city (where most work) and the cost out side that is not small .
            the biggest reason we dont use much in the way of mass transit, is that geography of US cites. most arent all that small. haven worked in Germany, where trains run almost every 10-15 minutes, it become easier than where trains may run twice an hour, and stop many place on the route, leading to a very long trip

            Reply
    2. Jessica

      I assume that a lot of people will buy portable generators. In parts of the Pacific Northwest exurbs and countryside where downed trees knock out the power a few times per winter, such portable generators are nearly standard equipment.

      Reply
  2. IdahoSpud

    Wolf Richter debunked most of the premises of this article a couple of days ago. Maybe this is a response to that on behalf of oil.
    https://wolfstreet.com/2020/09/28/california-sales-ban-of-new-gasoline-diesel-vehicles-jolts-half-dead-business-model-of-electric-utilities-power-generators-including-in-other-states/

    Wolf’s point is that EVs will typically charge in your garage overnight, during offpeak hours. It’s on-peak demand and intentional wildfire T-line shutdowns that have been causing most of California’s power outages.

    Recharging EVs at night time takes advantage of the surplus supply of power that is available when business and homes are in a period of reduced demand.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      See the comment above. This is California talking. A car in cold weather zones needs to run lots of heat even when it is just 50 degrees, let alone colder. Even here in Alabama we have entire weeks where the daily high is below 40 degrees.

      Heat is a by-product in an internal combustion engine and a big battery drain in an EV. The driving range collapses.

      Oh and those winter months are when solar harvesting is poor and can be close to nil if there are clouds too.

      Reply
      1. Knifecatcher

        I’ve driven well over 50k miles over the last several years in two different EVs, a 2015 Leaf and a 2019 Bolt. This is in Colorado, so we have some legitimately cold temperatures especially at 9000k+ feet of elevation.

        The Leaf is equipped with a heat pump which significantly mitigates the range hit, at least until temps drop well below freezing. With the limited range of the original Leaf the heater drain is definitely a concern during cold weather. The Bolt has over twice the battery capacity so even without a heat pump the range hit is really no big deal.

        Both cars are equipped with heated seats and steering wheel so I don’t even bother turning on the cabin heater until the temps drop down into the 40s. Heating the touch surfaces is much more efficient than heating the entire cabin.

        Reply
      2. Reaville

        Europe is even more aggressive than California. Their weather is not better than California or most of US.

        Getting rid of fossil fuels is not a nice to have, rather it is existential.

        Yes, California will upgrade its grid. Batteries may be 50% cheaper and 50% more capacity at the cell level in 3 years and those batteries are in pilot plant production since April. That matters. Solar & wind continue to improve.

        However humans are tribal, corporations are without morality, and the constant wingeing about difficulties,costs, and broken business models cast a shadow of doubt over the outcome.

        BTW, 20 year CA resident.

        Reply
    2. John

      At night the grid is largely powered by natural gas and nuclear sources. Cal ISO has an excellent app where you can monitor moment to moment supply and demand. Getting renewables to work at night just in California would require a supply of battery storage that exceeds the world’s capacity.

      Reply
      1. Louis Fyne

        soon to be 100% natgas in the overnight hours. iirc currently 87%+ nat gas, right now.

        where CA is going to find natgas once fracking is banned by the Green New Deal, you tell me. …barring a breakthrough with Star Trek levels of energy storage tech in the next 15 years

        Reply
    3. upstater

      Wolf also states that California could import wind generated electricity from west Texas.

      Texas is not part of the Western interconnection (WECC), or the eastern interconnection either. It operates as a stand-alone “island”. While there are a very few DC conversion stations allowing transfers to/from Texas to/from the east or the west, their capacity is very limited and they feed directly into the AC grid, 1000 miles from California.

      The only way importing wind from Texas or anywhere in the Great Plains is to build massive DC transmission lines from the source to California. They are horrendously expensive and very few exist — the largest is the Pacific DC Intertie from Washington State (hydro power) to Los Angles, with a transfer capacity of 3100 MW (about 3 large nuclear plants worth of production). There is one in the upper Midwest and another in New England — and that is it! There have been various preliminary studies for large scale DC lines linking all 3 interconnections, but nothing in an actual planning stage.

      Also, installation cost of a home-based charger is non-trivial. They cost perhaps $600, but also require running a 220V service to the garage or driveway, costing maybe another $1000-3000, assuming the house has adequate service. And if charging is done at off-peak times, there has to be some communication mechanism with the grid operator.

      Lastly, the distribution feeders that connect “the grid” to neighborhoods and businesses may not be able to handle the load and require upgrades (a feeder typically has 1000-3000 residential users). For instance, even now with roof-top solar, there are limitations on how many homes may connect on a given feeder to avoid overloads flowing back into the system (IIRC, the IEEE has a standard and I think it was 10% of customers).

      These aspirational goals for EVs, net-Zero, etc, etc are wishful thinking without major, long term investment commitments. Who is going to pay?

      Reply
        1. upstater

          So you can hire an electrician to run a new 30A 220V line with a new breaker in the panel for $200? Huh?

          Maybe under ideal conditions with the panel in the garage and an empty slot for a breaker it could be $200 with a cheap electrician. Assuming the house has a 200-250A service.

          Reply
        2. Think Again

          Installation is $200 from the termination of a 240 volt line. As upstate notes running a new 240 volt line through finished space in a house is not trivia if the electrical panel is not near the garagel. And that’s assuming the existing electrical service can handle the increase load.

          Reply
          1. Clive

            I’ve just completed a remodel and, for future-proofing (plus tidying up of several circuits which had been added ad-hoc over the years) I replaced the consumer unit (do you guys call it the breaker panel? or “fuse box”? it’s the thing with all the circuit breakers in it) to include a 100 amp utility breaker (we run 230v single phase to domestic supplies here), a 100 amp rated busbar, surge protector and a 40 amp spare breaker slot ready for an EV charger.

            The cost: £1,792.

            Ouch.

            The EV charger itself would be another £500, unless paid for by the manufacturer as an incentive. Which, of course, isn’t going to be available on a used vehicle.

            I was advised I needed this work (and the regulatory notification to the county so they can log the increase in load) as my previous setup could not be updated to add the charge point. I was advised that, with an all-electric stove (7kW induction hob, 3kW oven), an assumed 5kW plug load average, 3kW water heater, 5kW A/C I was right on the limit of permissible load diversity if I were to then add a 7.2kW EV charger. If I had electric showers (7-11kW) I’d need a three phase (400v here) “industrial” supply — you’re talking thousands plus a limited choice of tariffs. And I’d need to dig up and re-lay my driveway.

            Reply
            1. fajensen

              In Scandinavia and most of Europe, all domestic electric installations are 3 phase 400V, TN-S since the 1960’s.

              It is simply not cost effective to do it any other way.

              Reply
              1. Clive

                I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Most European low voltage distribution (including the U.K.) is, as you say, 400v three phase at “street” level.

                But a domestic supply only uses one of the phases and so gives ~230v single phase. This is true to my certain knowledge in France, too https://www.frenchentree.com/living-in-france/utilities/french-electrical-systems/

                Three phase is (or was, traditionally) way, way overkill for a hitherto adequate supply of a domestic load.

                Scandinavia may well be different with three phase the default for domestic installations. But this certainly isn’t an assumption which is valid right across Europe. I remember my Dad, who is an electrical engineer, being appalled at how in the Spanish holiday islands, a 30 amp single phase 230v supply was considered “adequate”.

                Reply
                1. fajensen

                  What was learned in the 1950’s was that splitting the phases off at the street level requires Central Planning and barely “saves” two short-ish pieces of conductor because the one phase with lower voltage and higher current now has to be fatter as does the Protective Earth. This setup was not worth the trouble it caused. Some places of course likes their Central Planners more than others do.

                  They usually installed 3 phase cables rated for 75 or 90 A and then set the maximum current level (which would be 3x 64A) at the fuse box in the street.

                  There is a “fuse fee” depending on the current level. I *think* I have 3x 25 A in my house.

                  Reply
                2. Jos Oskam

                  Right, Clive. Living in France I can confirm this.

                  As an aside, especially in the French countryside, it used to be fairly common for 380/400V 3-phase to come into rural houses. This was mainly because all above-ground electricity distribution had 3 wires. More recently, large segments of these old distribution networks are being replaced, often with underground cables, and households are nudged to forego 3-phase and use 1-phase 220/230V instead.

                  Also I have seen myself that the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Austria use mainly 1-phase 220/230V for common domestic installations.

                  So that’s already a lot of exceptions.

                  Reply
            2. stan6565

              Clive, where do you live?

              Mains gas would take care of half of your energy loading and reduce the necessity of industrial style electric installation.
              Or at least kerosene for heating if you are in the sticks.

              Reply
              1. Clive

                Yes, you’re quite right of course, mains natural gas would take a big whack out of my presented load (cooking, space heating and hot water could be moved back to gas). It is available, I’m not out in the sticks. But I am trying to decarbonise my energy consumption as much as I can.

                Here, renewables plus nukes is usually 50% or more of generation (plus we draw some from France and their excess nuclear output too via interconnection) https://gridwatch.co.uk/ — a breezy but sunny day can see renewables hit 60%+

                Burning primary fuels when I have better, sustainable alternatives seems a bit extravagant to me, since I can financially put in upgrades to wean myself off them.

                But yes, it’s just squeezing the balloon and unavoidably hitting the electrical supply.

                Reply
            3. ewmayer

              Clive, thanks for the data – but again I see an implied assumption that EVs will be charging at the same time other high-wattage systems like electric stove and A/C are running, which is not the case.

              Yes, in colder climates one might be running an electric heater at night if one lacked a gas one, but again, this article and Wolf’s disparate-take one are about *California*, where relatively few places need lots of nighttime heating. Further, even in colder climates, electric heating is inefficient vs gas, so wherever feasible, states should be encouraging people to switch from the former to other kinds of heating, including solar-to-heat-water, which is in fact much more efficient than solar-for-electricity. (And the 2 can of course be combined, waste heat from PV panels being drawn off to heat a large insulated water reservoir).

              But, question to the electricians around here: what are the practical hurdles here? Is it physically possible for an EV charger to share a large-volt-and-amp breaker with another high-draw appliance? (Possibly with a physical switch preventing any possibility of them being used at the same time, if needed for safety reasons). If so, would local regulations need to be changed to permit such?

              Reply
              1. fajensen

                Technically and legally you can,

                If you want to live like grandma on the farm did in the 1950’s :).

                They had one big fuse and a manual, 3-position changeover switch to firsts run the beets shredder, then the milker.

                My grandparents always said that the 1950’s and before was shit but I guess ancient evil like the Koch brothers believe that regression to those days will also make them spry again so they are going for it.

                Reply
              2. Clive

                You can’t handwave away basic physics.

                I’ve got a 100amp utility fuse. We run 230vac here. I can draw 23kW, then the utility fuse blows and I have to call out the utility repair engineer to replace it. (although I have a 100amp breaker installed so that shouldn’t happen but I’ll still need to manually reset it).

                But if I don’t reduce the load I’m presenting I will just jolly well trip the bloody breaker again!

                My hob runs 7kW if I use all the rings (I do usually run three of them concurrently for most meal preparation). My oven runs 3kW (and I get a full amp draw warming it up form cold). My 3kW water heater runs during teatime as I’ll have had a bath or shower when I stop work. If I boil a kettle that’s a 3kW plug load right there and that’s before the refrigerator (500w), washing machine (2kW), dishwasher (2kW) etc. etc. might need to be on. The A/C rarely runs flat out, but in heating season I will draw 3-4kW on a cold day, especially if I’ve let the space temperatures slide to save a bit of energy (and when we had a heatwave with nearly a week of 95°F, I did max it out in the afternoon, over 5kW).

                If I charge an EV I will, if I don’t shed some of that load, trip the breaker or blow the utility cutout!

                When I spoke to the electrician about the EV charger, he did say some of the newer versions had built in demand response and inputs to feed in load data so they’d stop charging if the other “higher priority” loads like plug loads and space heating were high. Which is fine. Unless your EV is out of juice and you want to go somewhere.

                What do they teach in science class in the US? Knitting patterns? I do sometimes wonder.

                Reply
                1. ewmayer

                  “If I charge an EV I will, if I don’t shed some of that load, trip the breaker or blow the utility cutout!”

                  So you top up your EV at night, when none or few of the high-draw appliances you mention will be in use. Yes, of course there are occasional situations where that might not suffice, but for those, you might just have to suffer the cruel agony of not using off your stove and electric tea kettle while you give your EV an emergency charge. Oh the humanity!

                  In fact I recently hit a similar situation at smaller scale in my apartment – upgraded my Linux deskside PC to host several high-end GPUs for my computtional-math work. Liked the result so much I further built an open-test-frame barebones systems, which, now-fully-built-out, holds 4 more of the same GPU model. The deskside system draws 600W, the test-frame system 900W. As soon as the latter was up and running it started tripping the 120V/15A breaker both systems were on. That was odd, because said breaker should be able to handle a 1.5kW load, with a few hundred watts to spare. My work desk is on the opposite side of one kitchen wall, and it turned out that the small-kitchen-appliance outlets on the kitchen side of said wall run off the same breaker, so once the computer load on that breaker got over 1kW, any time someone used the toaster or electric tea kettle the load would spike to over 2kW. Solution was to run an extension cord from the nearest outlet-not-on-the-same-breaker to the computers. But that’s small potatoes compared to an EV charger and there are no potential regulatory issues, which is why I asked my above question, which you found so insultingly stupid.

                  Reply
      1. jonboinAR

        Didn’t I read about a national-like proposal to redo the interconnections to make them more power-flexible, but Trump blew the idea off?

        Reply
      2. armmanage

        I question the statement that HVDC lines are “horrendously expensive.” They’re certainly not cheap. But the source below puts the price of a fairly large (2000MW) HVDC line running approximately 1000 miles at less than $1 billion (note HVDC gets cheaper over longer distances compared to high voltage AC; larger capacities would also benefit from scale and be relatively cheaper). This source is from 2014, granted; but even if one assumes the real cost would be 2-3-5X higher, it’s not that large a sum compared to CA or TX economies, grids or electric spending – just PG&E alone spends on the order of $8 billion annually on capex. (And CA already is tied into AZ and other states, so not obvious HVDC interconnects would have to cover the entire distance to TX).

        https://electrical-engineering-portal.com/analysing-the-costs-of-high-voltage-direct-current-hvdc-transmission

        Reply
    4. jefemt

      The article clearly states charging should take place mid day. That is simply a matter of people managing their lives and demands. Extend the logic, we should run our dishwashers, do our laundry mid- day, do our energy demanding work mid day.

      Then, shut ‘er down and demand way less in the off peak hours.

      Many folks with solar arrays know this, and practice it.

      We have become very spoiled with convenience, shifting the external costs out of sight, out of mind. Decentralization, self reliance, and resiliency, baby.

      Reaping what we have sown— angry ratepayer victims.

      Reply
  3. Linden S.

    This paper came out recently (behind paywall stupidly) about the unlikelihood of 100% EVs by 2050 w/o an attempt at reducing mileage/car size. In addition to the electricity production issued raised here it also talked about mineral demand which lambert talked about before. Here is an excerpt:

    “Without drastic changes to EV battery material composition or major improvements to the recycling processes of the used batteries, up to 5.0, 7.2 and 7.8 Mt respectively of lithium, cobalt and manganese would need to be extracted between 2019 and 2050 for the US LDV fleet alone, or 8% and 29% of the identified world terrestrial resources of lithium (62 Mt; ref. 33) and cobalt (25 Mt; ref. 33) in 2019 (there are no major concerns regarding manganese resources).”

    I hadn’t seen those numbers for the U.S. yet…that’s a lot of minerals.

    Reply
    1. DF

      It’s starting to look like for Li-Ion batteries, a lot of lower-cost EVs (as well as stationary battery banks) will start using Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries. While these batteries have lower energy density than other Li-Ion chemistries, they don’t use any cobalt or nickel. In terms of lithium, Elon Musk claimed on Battery Day that the amount of lithium available in Nevada alone is enough to electrify the entire United States vehicle fleet.

      LFP batteries are slated to be used in upcoming Chinese Tesla’s, and I think BYD heavily uses them in their EVs.

      Reply
      1. Grumpy Engineer

        One can obtain “enough” of any mineral (lithium, cobalt, nickel, rare earths, etc.) if you’re willing to tear up (and chemically process) enough landscape to do it. The question, of course, is how much landscape you’ll have to tear up, how much it will cost, and how much environmental damage you’ll wreak in the process.

        The US currently produces only 5% of the lithium it consumes today (http://www.lithiummine.com/lithium-mining-in-usa). Opening new mines is a slow and difficult process. One can expect significant push-back for any new mine proposed. For example: https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-death-valley-lithium-mine-california-environment-20190507-story.html. If Elon Musk think he can mine enough lithium to power all vehicles in the US in his lifetime, he’s dreaming.

        Reply
      2. Tom Bradford

        Important, though, is the loss of capacity over time. One of the reasons I pulled the plug on the home solar system we almost went with was that the Tesla battery was stated to be down to 80% capacity after 10 years, and to lose capacity even faster after that, requiring supplementation or replacement of the battery less than half way through the life of the solar panels – and the battery was half the cost of the original installation – uneconomic.

        This reduction in range over time is going to be a problem with EVs and supplementation to make up the difference isn’t possible, although they’ll likely be on their last legs at 10 years anyway, but for a home solar system it affects the economics severely and if the ‘new’ batteries lose capacity at the same or an even faster rate the adverse economics apply.

        Reply
      3. ObjectiveFunction

        What Elon recently said is that *now* Tesla is going to make LiFePo4 batteries in house. Gigafactory 2.0?

        So I guess the grand alliance he was touting for most of this year with China’s CATL didn’t work out? State-backed market power squeezing him hard down where it hurts….

        1. Metals gurus have been warning for at least a decade now that there just isn’t enough cobalt to electrify even 5% of global transport on top of all our E-device needs, drones, robot forklifts, etc. Musk simply can’t talk his way past that law of nature.

        2. Nearly all cobalt (ex Congo, or seamounts) is a byproduct of copper and nickel mining. So cobalt supply is constrained by cyclical industry demand for those basic metals. Miners won’t dig more out without firm demand. And no, nickel isn’t just interchangeable with cobalt on a cathode. Elon can’t just jawbone nickel demand (and cobalt supply) into existence that way.

        3. Energy density and operating life of cobalt-light technologies like LiFePo4 or graphene are significantly different from LI, and will fundamentally alter EV design and economics.

        … I personally continue to think the BetterPlace model, where instead of self-charging, you swap EV battery packs at a service station (much like propane tanks for your grill), will ultimately make more sense than shelling out up front for a (crapified Chinese?) battery whose charge life becomes pants in 8 years or less. Let the battery rental shops take those performance risks.

        Reply
  4. The Rev Kev

    I don’t see how this could ever be a problem for California. Not so long as you have corporations like Pacific Gas and Electric Company on the job. The beauty of this idea is that by the time all the serious problems start cropping up, people like Gavin will be long gone from the scene. Come to think of it, if a bad earthquake hit California down the track, will that mean that all those people with this new generation vehicle will be left with only their feet for transport as the quake may have broken the electricity lines – the same ones that recharge those vehicle? Doesn’t sound very resilient to me.

    Reply
    1. Laura in So Cal

      So I thought my Dad’s head was going to explode when we talked about this last weekend. He has a masters in electrical engineering and spent his whole career doing control systems. In addition, he is a renaissance man. He lives in a rural area, built his own home contracting out only the foundation, drywall, and masonry brick fireplace, self installed his own solar power array that is net tied and has battery backup. According to him, along with the heatwave, the biggest reason for the power issues in California recently is that Smoke kills Solar power production. We lost a significant % of Solar production because of smoke. It was assumed that other Western States would sell California electricity if our renewables were a problem, but they were having a heat wave also so they couldn’t sell us what we needed.
      The people in his area are switching back to land lines from internet phone services because the PSPS (Public Safety Power Shut-offs) during Red Flag events are making it hard to depend on those services b to communicate. Their power has been shut off by the power company for over 2 days at a time AND now they want to make everyone dependent on electricity for transportation….What if there was an actual fire and your electric vehicle was dead because you haven’t been able to charge it for 2 days. How do you evacuate?
      My Dad was talking about the essential math and said if they want to get this to happen, the state needs to spend lots of $$ starting right now because we will have to majorly increase our power production and power generation isn’t built in day.

      Reply
    2. d

      well, unless an ice vehicle has really long range, and the roads are so blocked, it toll have problems. since gas stations use ….electricity to run the pumps, and of course to bill you for what you buy from them (oh wait …more electricity….and done forget needing telecommunications to actually pay for the fuel)…its not all that different is it? and sin e you wont be able to go fast,…it will take a while leave

      disasters impact lost more than what we think they do…if they are big enough

      Reply
    3. d

      earthquake would be a problem for ice vehicles too since the fuel stations would be out service….probably longer than any other disaster since fuel tanks are buried in the ground, and once electricity is cut off, no pumping fuel till its back on. and like most others, they would not be able to process cc purchases. and may not be able to take cash, since banks would be closed too

      Reply
  5. pebird

    If EVs are charging at night, then off peak becomes the new peak.

    In the past the CA electrical grid investments were funded via population growth. Adding 10 to 20 plus percent demand to (a hopefully upgraded) grid would require what population growth and/or price adjustments?

    Reply
    1. TimH

      You can argue that. I’d argue that companies will provide a charging perk for employees, that will push the charging to daytime. Fine if employer provides from solar array, but many won’t have the option to install that.

      The best mandate is for intelligence in the charging algorithms to firstly triage the charging to the cars (so cars must communicate their charge level), and secondly to manage the load across power delivery networks. This requires networked electricity metering (there partly with the smart meters), and massive privacy implications.

      Reply
    2. d

      not really, peak demand is really driven by the us of HVAC systems, they use a lot more electricity than almost any of the user (except commercial and industrial users).

      and based on what i see with my ev, we have yet to see a huge increase if electric costs (we went from a 1200 sqft apartment to a 2100+ sqft house….and the house has lower lower electric usage than the apartment). and the car wasnt even on the apartments electric bill, and it is on the house.

      Reply
  6. Mr Broken Record

    Do we really have enough supply of non-ferrous metals to replace all ICE cars with EVs?

    Also, are EV batteries economically recyclable?

    Reply
    1. Reaville

      Yes to both.

      Battery improvements are coming fast and production at scale is already financially committed. The corner has been turned.

      Much more production will follow. No other options that are produceable at scale in time to meet climate crisis.

      Reply
      1. Fazal Majid

        Car battery technology is already improving faster than expected. You also have technology that requires less rare earths or conflict minerals (e.g. Tesla getting rid of cobalt) and sodium rather than lithium batteries on the horizon that will be cheaper and safer than lithium ones (Tiamat in France). Charging cars in the daytime actually makes perfect sense for both car commuters and those who leave their car at home and use transit.

        Yes, electric cars are not ideal for wintry locations, but guess what? The US population has been shifting towards the Sun Belt for some time now.

        I am just looking forward to a future where Mohammed bin Salman cannot afford to buy any more bone saws.

        Reply
        1. d

          and its not like wintery locations are ideal for ICE vehicles either. Evs are basically using chemistry to store electricity. while ice is using stored chemical energy to generate power using mini explosions to generate power. guess what? ice vehicles are also impacted by cold, they tend to see degradation in power and range when its cold

          Reply
  7. armmanage

    I don’t want to be overly techno-optimist on this, but managed charging (where you leave your car plugged in and controllers modify the rate of charge up and down) is a real solution. Right now it mainly falls down on a lack of standards for chargers/communication and the lack of a business model (or really, interest on the part of utilities) to push it. And it won’t just be ‘at night’ but at home, at work, anywhere you plug in.
    The piece of the puzzle for what happens in future: the problem is at low penetrations of EVs this technology is an interesting toy (most of the time for most customers). But at higher EV penetrations, this technology will become absolutely necessary. There’s nothing fundamentally that complex on the tech side. The main question is when the necessary standards and protocols start to get made and stabilize – which could happen very quickly in a market the size of California.
    Again, it’s not that managed charging is obviously good and desirable (it is), but that at some point it will become absolutely necessary for the functioning of the grid (and the alternatives so expensive) that it will have to get done. Most likely mechanism is government mandate, mainly (I believe) because the market will take too long to figure out how to grab the benefits, and government will push a solution earlier.

    Reply
    1. John Wright

      If managed charging is used to flatten the demand for electricity, this should “harden” the demand for electricity (economists refer to this as making the demand for electricity inelastic) as excess/redundant capacity is removed from the system.

      If the electrical system operates at 100% of capacity for much of the time, it is very vulnerable to unanticipated events (floods, wildfires, earthquakes or equipment failure).

      One would hope some redundancy remains in the system, but this costs money.
      .
      Recently we have seen how “just in time” inventory management can cause problems for manufacturing critical Covid-19 resources during a system “shock”,

      “Just in time” electricity may have similar concerns if excess capacity is managed out of the system..

      Reply
      1. Zamfir

        I don’t think this logic applies here. This is not about redundancy. If you cannot shift demand to the hours of high PV production, then that high PV production is not useful as reserve capacity either.

        On the other hand, managed EV charging does ppotentially act as a form of redundancy. If there is a short-term disruption on the supply side, it would be extremely useful if the grid can react by shutting down (or throttle) EV chargers for a short period.

        For many electricity uses, such an action has immediate impact, no matter how short the break. But battery charging can accept targeted “rolling blackouts” without a problem, as long as the average supply over many hours is sufficient.

        Seriously, EV charging has the potential of being the greatest grid stabilizer around.

        Reply
        1. armmanage

          Well put, @Zamfir. The conceptual framework many are locked into is based on a simplified version of a ‘traditional’ grid, where the supply of electricity is relatively stable (coal and nuclear plants operating at relatively high capacity) and variable demand is the ‘problem’, so supply is varied to match the two. (Complicate this simple model with seasonality etc as much as you wish). Some modest demand-side programs are used to massage this a bit with lower night-time rates and special arrangements with large industrial consumers (e.g. to reduce demand during periods of exceptional demand or so-called grid events).
          In other words, many still think of it in terms the poster above used, “flattening” demand.
          That ‘low nighttime demand’ image of the problem many have is already wrong in CA (for example) because solar production during the day is so high – the supply changes are no longer driven by the big single-source plants. Now in CA the problem is more the ramp rate in the early evening as solar production drops and household demand grows. (There are excellent articles out there on this, search for the ‘duck curve.’)
          Managed EV charging – done properly – would be far more dynamic, tuning the charge rate up and down to ‘sop up’ surplus supply (wholesale prices low) and turn off the charging when supply is tight (wholesale prices very high). With low EV penetration, it’s just a rounding error – but at high EV penetration, I believe this type of charge management will be inevitable.
          The current two or three-tier daily / seasonal rates in many markets are just a massive simplification or artefact of a previous gen problem.
          Already on many grids daily/seasonal prices (wholesale) vary widely – with substantial periods of low, sometimes close to zero or even negative pricing, with short periods of very high pricing.
          For the geeky, Ontario’s grid operator has decent current/historical info on supply/demand/pricing available publicly. It won’t be representative of all markets but does give some sense of what’s going on. Can be explored here: http://ieso.ca/power-data (click on the price tab).

          To pick a day at random, Sept 16:
          http://reports.ieso.ca/public/DispUnconsHOEP/PUB_DispUnconsHOEP_20200916.xml
          Note the zero wholesale price for a full eight straight hours (Ontario does have the nuclear/hydro stable supply and modest electrical demand at night in shoulder seasons – so this is in the lower end of price volatility). Prices (well) below $10/mwh for the rest of the day, with only an evening spike in prices to between $10-20 for four hours. You can easily find short spikes in prices over $100 from time to time though.
          The likely business model for EV managed charging is an aggregator – either the utility or some other company – to manage 1000s of vehicles, access the wholesale price and sell ‘grid services’ (demand management to the grid operator to turn up/down when the grid needs it – basically acting as a reserve).

          Reply
        2. BlakeFelix

          And even beyond that, it would take a bit more technology, but I don’t see why you couldn’t draw down the batteries to power the grid if you had to. It should be expensive power, but there should be a fair bit available. Idle cars could hover around the charge that is best for battery life, and pay a little dividend if the grid uses a bit of power.

          Reply
  8. William Hunter Duncan

    Perhaps if we had embarked on this path in about 1970…

    But then global population has more than doubled since, so that’s a lot more brainpower to figure it out…

    Good news though, I heard an interview on Minnesota Public Radio recently about the new generation of small reactors, to proliferate all across the countryside. These new reactors are so awesome, if there is a disruption, the reactor shuts down on it’s own, it doesn’t need cooling and can sit there inert and safe forever!

    That said, the pandemic wiped out my savings, I’m a self-employed contractor so Minnesota ignored my requests for unemployment, I’m a little short on cash, so if anyone wants to buy a bridge to mars I have for sale…

    Reply
    1. Alex Cox

      William
      As you are self employed surely you are eligible for PUA. I filed for unemployment for the first time this year (I’m an independent contractor too) and Oregon has been reasonably generous to me.
      You have to keep at it though – file very week, keep checking the website etc. because the rules change and there are new forms to fill in; don’t even think of calling the phone hotline (constantly busy, no voicemail) – but PUA was supposed to cover the self employed, and you should git some.

      Reply
  9. unhappyCakeEater

    The idea of swapping out IC cars for EV sounds nice. But the problem is still those 15 million personal vehicles in CA.

    Reply
    1. d

      depends, unless you are driving more than say 100 per day (which can happen in SOCAL because people have to be so far away from where they work because it costs so much to live where work is), then you probably wont actually impact the electrical grid that much. a level 1 charge (110 volt standard plug) will charge at about 3 or so miles an hour so the recommended charge of no more than 85% wont take that long unless, you are a hype miler. now if you installed a level 2 (220 volt) it can charge up 10 or miles an hour if not better (depends on to many variable to even figure it out). that would be a 8-9 hour charge. course a super charger goes even faster, with even some of the 300 and more ev ranges, being less than an hour to charge on one of them.

      Reply
  10. Apparently unworthy non criminal human

    Not to worry, the vast and ever increasing impoverished millions of apartment renting and gas vehicle dwelling homeless Californians will bear the brunt of the stated goal, while the well to do will receive criminal subsidizing, as they did with the Unaffordable Power Sucking Teslas like the two Gavin bought at a huge subsidized discount while Jerry was slashing the budget on the most vulnerable – they always have, a California feature, not a bug.

    If the California powers that be want to increasingly make life unbearable for over a third of the population, they need to at least let them opt out of life in some painless and quick manner.

    Been hit by so many cruel blows in this state (countless pre coronavirus blows, let alone coronavirus blows), with no option to escape it, it’s becoming unbearable. Further, to witness so many others who don’t live in this state applaud those horrid powers that be from afar intensifies the agony and horror.

    Reply
  11. Momo

    I know you’re all talking about California but here is how it can work over in rainy England with our shambolic grid.
    We have solar panels supported by a battery and an electric car that we charge entirely at home. In the first none months of this year we used 5597 kWh in total and solar supplied 4217 kWh of that. Given the battery, our grid draw in peak time 4pm-7pm was typically around zero. The car charges overnight or if we plug it in on a sunny day. The house battery algorithm charges it mostly at night 12-4am. In this country, when there is no sun the wind is often blowing and since we have half-hourly pricing on our electricity on a miserably windy weekend the spot price sometimes drops below zero at night as the wind farms are producing more power than the grid needs. So the batteries (car and house) are essential way of balancing grid usage and making it more efficient. For us it has worked pretty well.
    An observation: I don’t think there is any point just hand wringing about what doesn’t work today. We just need to get on and make it work because there isn’t an option that has us just continue to burn gas and drive ICE cars forever.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      Relatively few Americans live in an area with climate as temperate as England.

      The political party who tells Americans in the Sun Belt thay AC is forbidden, or who doubles heating costs in the North, will live in the political wilderness.

      Just saying. I don’t make the rules.

      Reply
      1. d

        not sure if you look at where the UK is on the globe compared to what state comes closest to being in the same place, as to how temperate they are.

        course i wonder how the UK and US have such bad grids. seems like personality, we just dont do that well

        Reply
  12. Michael Fiorillo

    Can someone in the NC commentariat disabuse me of the notion that electric vehicles are so embedded/potential energy dense, mainly because of the batteries, that it will take years for them to perhaps meet their boosters’ claims. At that point, they are then in danger of becoming functionally useless and future toxic waste. In other words, they are a collective illusion at best, and a scam, at worst.

    Add in the displaced pollution, rather than it’s elimination (to say nothing of the environmental and human costs of mining and refining the minerals needed for the batteries), and you have more heat and heat-retaining output. I’m not trying to shill for the fossil fuel or internal combustion engine industries; I’m just unable to see how we’re not trapped by our economic growth models, floundering for alternatives, and thus vulnerable to hustlers like Musk.

    What am I missing?

    Reply
    1. d

      well lets look at the pollution. cause its a reasonable question. to make the cars them selves, both use lots of electricity to make parts, frames, etc to actually produce a vehicle. each has its own plus and minus here. both have needs for minerals to be mined to produce the vehicle. though some changes are coming that will reduce or eliminate Cobalt for batteries, and some reduction in liquids that are used for electric cars. but basically both use oil to create a vehicle, in both use it for tires, one requires oil in the engine or that engine will freeze up. so while one only has a need for that in tires, the other also needs it to power the vehicle and allow it to run. guessing if all you needed oil for was tires, that would be a lot lower need to drill for oil, wouldnt it? nor do you need to distribute it, which seems to add more need to for oil since those tanker trucks use oil to power their vehicles too? and of course there is also a need for more electricity to deliver the fuel huh? plus storing fuel in the ground can lead to spills under ground, never mind the spills from tankers, fire risks from both . not that there arent fire risks evs. odd though people do not realize how many ice vehicles catch on fire every day, mainly cause there are so many (who knew that basing transportation powered by small explosions could be a fire risk!) now the displaced pollution may be actually a good thing, since its a lot easier to clean a few, than a few 100 million sources.

      Reply
    2. fajensen

      Probably not. Reality is that one can, today, buy or lease f.ex a WW ID.3 which will do 540 km on one charge and 290 km on a 30 minutes charge. Under EU regulations, WW being the manufacturer, has to take the batteries e.t.c. back for recycling. Even the tyres goes for recycling.

      What you are missing?

      Maybe that “Everything is really a scam” is not a helpful worldview to have: It sucks being wrong, and yet it sucks even harder being right.

      Reply
  13. Mike Smitka

    If we were willing to drive small commuter cars, the world would be quite different. But in the US of today pickup trucks outsell all sedans combined, and then there are SUVs. Only a few small sedans are available in the US (eg the Fiat 500, the Chevy Spark, the BMW Mini, the Honda Fit, the Toyota Yaris) and they sell poorly. There’s no sign that will change, and I doubt that it will be possible politically to put a steep weight tax on vehicles (cf. the Japanese taxes and regulations that favor “kei” minicars). That amplifies the challenge of moving to an electric fleet, because power consumption will be at the high end of the spectrum.

    Of course a Tesla weighs 5000 lbs, since they market acceleration plus range, which means a huge battery pack and heavy frame and suspension to bear the load. Normal car purchasers aren’t so enamored of 0-60, but an SUV or a pickup aren’t light. (I live in rural Virginia, where pickups are dominant – I drive a small car, but have a used pickup for the many errands for which one is necessary.)

    Other comments note the grid capacity challenges that are worse in California than elsewhere, thanks to rules that favor local NIMBY policies. Then there is the need for a garage, or an employer who will provide charging. Note the 2019 American Housing Survey estimates 1/3rd of all residences lack a garage or carport, but 2/3rds or more apartments lack one. The many in the US who work fast food or retail aren’t likely to have charging at their job, either. Of course they don’t buy new vehicles, indeed the majority of vehicle owners in the US have never bought a new vehicle.

    So this is aspirational, and will surely get walked back as the deadline approaches. To get a sense of what will happen, watch the EU as they implement their strict CO2 standards. Unless battery costs fall rapidly and battery material input bottlenecks are overcome, they will need to start walking back their policies long before 2025. [Input bottlenecks are affected by existing refining infrastructure, manganese may be abundant in principle, but in practice there is limited capacity for the highly purified forms needed for making battery cells. There are lots of these bottlenecks up and down the battery supply chain, and sufficient uncertainties to make financing new investment challenging = long lead times, up to a decade, and no mechanism in place to guarantee coordination across the supply chain.]

    Reply
    1. cnchal

      > There’s no sign that will change, and I doubt that it will be possible politically to put a steep weight tax on vehicles . . .

      In Ontario there is a steep insurance tax for small light vehicles and an insurance subsidy for those driving the heaviest vehicles possible. We only put public liability on our cars and were very puzzled why the lightest car we own was so much moar (50%) than a heavier car we own, so some pointed questions were asked, like what the fuck is this? Should they not be essentially the same?

      The rationale, if one could call it that, is that drivers and passengers in a light vehicle that are hit in a collision are on average much moar costly to “repair” than drivers of pickup trucks when they get into a collision so the hittee subsidizes the hitter.

      Pickup trucks are the cheapest, then big SUVs on a continuum to where small cars such as a Honda Fit is charged an injury or death trap rate.

      It’s probably like that everywhere in North America. Inverted incentives galore.

      Reply
    2. d

      well it seems GM, Ford are both planning electric trucks (and Tesla and others).
      now as to why a heavy vehicle of the same age and price of smaller lighter vehicle would have cheaper insurance, only can guess its the theme that lighter is more likely to have more damage in any wreck
      course it might also be that way to make up for the more fuel heavy vehicles use too i suppose

      Reply
      1. cnchal

        I will spell it out for you. In Ontario we have universal health care and when someone goes to the hospital due to involvement in a wreck, they get “repaired”. That cost dwarfs the price of the vehicles involved, and in our case the cars are so cheap that were one to get wrecked, it would be scrapped, after I grabbed the good parts off it first, like sweet running engine and transmission in my Honda.

        The point is that the government of Ontario, the regulator, in cahoots with the insurance business has determined that owners of small cars are irresponsible for driving small cars and therefore their liability rates are 50% higher because the likelyhood of being severely injured in a crash is much higher that someone driving the pickup truck that was also involved in the crash.

        Driving record and claims history has nothing to do with it either. That is simply ignored. Small car bad, big pickup truck good is the operating principle.

        Reply
        1. d

          yea no doubt its a lighter vehicle penalty. and while i dont recall the cost of fuel up there (havent been back in over a year), would seem to push the cost of heavier vehicles higher.
          but if insurance costs penalize the smaller same cost vehicle to the heavier one, one would wonder why

          Reply
          1. BlakeFelix

            Maybe the government should make the insurance companies of both vehicles split the costs, so the bigger trucks pay for hurting other people. I think that in the USA only passengers are considered for safety.

            Reply
  14. Grumpy Engineer

    I know that it’s a little dated, but Jack Lifton’s analysis of cobalt utilization for an all-electric car fleet for the UK is still relevant: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/07/cobalt-production-as-the-hidden-choke-point-on-mass-conversion-to-electric-vehicles.html. Key quote is as follows:

    The 200+ mile on a single charge range of a Tesla using a 60-80 kWh battery requires 19kg of cobalt. 30 million such vehicles would therefore require 570,000 tons of cobalt, which would be immobilized (taken out of the market) for 5-8 years (the currently projected lifetime of the Li/Co type of battery used in the Tesla. This is nearly 5 times today’s annual output of new cobalt production.

    California only has 15 million cars, but we’re still talking about utilizing 2.5 years’ worth of global cobalt production just for one state. Even if we spread it out over 15 years, do we really think we can consume 17% of global cobalt production for the benefits of the 0.5% of the world’s residents who live in California?

    Reply
  15. heresy101

    Based on the comments on this article, the Kock brothers must have made a large donation to NC. There are few analyses but mostly fear and nay-saying that California can’t have 100% EV’s because there won’t be enough energy and grid to support it. This retired energy engineer is confident that the goal of 100% new EV’s and the slow elimination of natural gas usage can be reached.

    Actions that are occurring are: a) a number of cities and counties are prohibiting new natural gas connections and requiring electric service (heat pumps and heat pump water heaters), b) all new housing construction under 3? stories will require solar with net usage. Sacramento Municipal Utility District has a program to convert buildings from gas to electric usage, and c) large over the road trucks will be required to be electric and charging for them is beginning to be installed. Mercedes, Volvo and other manufacturers and beginning to bring out local trucks, buses, and over the road rigs that are electric.

    How will California meet this huge increase in electricity usage?
    a) New buildings will provide their own electricity from solar and batteries. Battery technology such as lithium-iron-phosphate is getting cheaper and more viable.
    b) Large solar generation is cheaper than coal and the only problem is delivering it to major load areas over the unmaintained grid. The solution to that problem is for California to become 100% public power (eg Green New Deal) and get rid of PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E who only care about their profits and not the condition of the grid.
    c) CAISO is a neoliberal organization that operates the grid according to the “market” and isn’t interested in a robust grid, just that their markets clear. An example is their CRR’s which don’t fix congestion and overloading, but allow hedge funds to make money. An entity like SMUD needs to be in charge of running the grid.
    d) Nuclear is dead and will never be “too cheap to meter”, but as more funds are invested, geothermal can contribute more to the baseload power.
    e) Combined cycle gas plants are uneconomic (Calpine shut down a six year old plant a few years ago because it wasn’t economical to run). Combustion turbines (peaking gas plants) will still run for a number of years yet, but large batteries can meet all the peaking needs of the future.
    f) Offshore floating wind will be the largest factor in electricity generation. The 30MW floating wind project in Scotland will be surpassed if Trump’s NOEM doesn’t prohibit floating wind. GE and Siemens have 13 MW wind turbines that they are beginning to install. If an area the size of SF Bay (100 x 20 miles) has 13 MW turbines installed on a ½ mile grid, there would be 4,000 floating turbines. This is slightly more than the 3,741 turbines at the Tehachapi Pass on I40 east of Bakersfield. At a 45% capacity factor (percent of year generating), these 4,000 turbines would produce 72% of California’s annual electric usage. The capacity factor for offshore wind is normally listed as 55-60%. Offshore costs are currently listed around $70/MWh, which is equal to PG&E’s average cost of electricity.

    Another advantage of offshore turbines is the generating cables are under water and can’t start a fire. They would have to be carefully laid so as to not damage the ocean floor but could come in under the Golden Gate a connect to a dozen substations located around the Bay.

    Currently, a 150MW wind project is proposed offshore of Eureka. There could be 3 or 4 of theses turbine areas offshore of California’s coast to provide electricity to other inland states.

    Links would have been added but the comment is getting too long.

    Reply
    1. UserFriendly

      d) Nuclear is dead and will never be “too cheap to meter”, but as more funds are invested, geothermal can contribute more to the baseload power.

      The stupidity of this species never fails to amaze me. Geothermal plants are responsible for roughly 6X as much radiation per power generated than Nuclear (see page 86 of the pdf, labeled page 216). Still nothing to worry about, but we really are dead set on stupiding are way to extinction. Nuclear is only that expensive because of the insane amount of regulation because everyone is afraid of radiation. Regardless nuclear is a much better deal because storage is nothing more than wishful thinking. Wake me when we can heat and power Minneapolis for a week during a not all that windy blizzard with these new wonderful batteries, and and be sure to tell me how much of an overbuild of PV we would need to charge them and where you plan of putting all of them without pissing off land owners. And that is cheaper than Nuclear? I don’t think so.

      Reply
      1. UserFriendly

        Adding from that report:

        218. The largest occupational collective dose normalized to energy generated in 2010 resulting from the mining for metals for construction materials was from solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, which was a factor of forty and eighty larger than for the nuclear fuel cycle and coal cycle, respectively. This was followed by the occupational collective dose for wind power, which was also larger than the values for the nuclear fuel cycle and coal cycle. These differences come from the different metal requirements for solar PV and wind power technologies, discussed in chapter VII.

        again, that isn’t anything to worry about.

        Reply
      2. heresy101

        2019 was the 30th year after SMUD shut down the Rancho Seco nuclear plant.
        https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article231253743.html
        “With the defeat of Measure K, Sacramento became the first community in the world to close a nuclear plant by public vote.” “In 1985, operators lost control of the plant during an “overcooling” event, which forced an automatic shutdown. The resulting 27-month outage cost SMUD $400 million, according to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.” “…that Three Mile Island and Rancho Seco used the same design …” “Over its 14 years of operation, Rancho Seco operated only a third of the time, according to people involved in the anti-Seco movement.” “After the plant shut down, SMUD diversified its energy supply and increased investment in energy efficiency programs that have resulted in customer savings of more than $600 million, SMUD officials said.” “It took 20 years for the plant to be fully decommissioned by the federal government, costing ratepayers $500 million, The Bee reported.” “Disposal of the radioactive waste at the plant hasn’t yet been settled, either. SMUD spends $5 million per year to provide security and oversee proper storage of spent uranium.” Too cheap to meter???

        The two nuclear plants that were shut down were to expensive to repair and Diablo Canyon is not far from breakdown since PG&E is forcing the Community Choice Aggregators (renewable energy) to eat Diablo Canyon costs as “exit fees”.

        Regarding winter heating in Minnesota, geothermal heating is the way to go. Maybe not the cheapest in capital costs but the operating costs are low. My experience with geothermal is a different than described below because it is with the geothermal heat creating electricity at the Geysers in Northern California.
        https://homereference.net/geothermal-hvac/
        “Lower bills are one of the biggest draws of geothermal energy, and when used for home heating and cooling, it definitely delivers. Not only are geothermal heat pumps more efficient than fuel-burning systems, they’re also three to five times more efficient than conventional air-source heat pumps.” “Your exact savings depend on your climate and how much you run your heat pump. On average, most households save between 30 to 60 percent on heating and 25 to 50 percent on cooling.” ”

        https://midwestrec.com/heat-pumps-geothermal Questions & answers about geothermal.
        “Midwest Electric surveyed its members who have an air source heat pump. The main results…
        90 percent are very satisfied with their air source heat pump
        More than 90 percent would select an air-source heat pump again today
        96 percent would recommend an air-source heat pump to a friend
        99 percent say it has lowered their energy bills”

        https://energynews.us/2020/06/22/midwest/in-minnesota-a-geothermal-innovation-revives-interest-in-systems-potential/
        New designs in technology are still being made.

        Reply
        1. UserFriendly

          God it is so annoying when people toss out dozens of numbers when most of them are irrelevant to the argument. The outage cost____ I don’t care because there is no such thing as a power plant that never goes offline, how much did it cost relative to a PV plant that goes offline every night?

          Over its 14 years of operation, Rancho Seco operated only a third of the time, according to people involved in the anti-Seco movement.”

          Oh, good I love dispassionate uninvested sources of information, I can tell this is already on par with Sacbee’s stellar CalPERS stenography. Hummmm, if the plant is so unreliable that it has only been up 1/3rd of the time why was this particular outage so rage worthy that we needed to know how much it cost?

          After the plant shut down, SMUD diversified its energy supply and increased investment in energy efficiency programs that have resulted in customer savings of more than $600 million, SMUD officials said.”

          If by diversified you mean switched entirely to nat gas, sure. And really, it was the little old nuclear plants mere existence that prevented them from saving buckets of money by investing in energy savings? I’ll add mind control to my list of reasons to build more nuclear plants.

          It took 20 years for the plant to be fully decommissioned by the federal government, costing ratepayers $500 million, The Bee reported.” “Disposal of the radioactive waste at the plant hasn’t yet been settled, either. SMUD spends $5 million per year to provide security and oversee proper storage of spent uranium.” Too cheap to meter???

          Funny thing about nuclear plants, they factor in the cost of decommissioning and waste disposal when they plan the project. In fact the federal government has a fully paid up fund to deal with the long term waste that all nuclear plants have paid into. But that keeps stalling out because of stupid people. Those aren’t extra costs. The only thing that cost extra was unnecessarily shutting the plant down way too early because stupid people.

          It’s not uncommon for new nuclear plants to have occasional shut downs for maintenance especially when the plants are newer. But the longer they operate the better they get at knowing what needs to get done to keep it running smoothly. That is why despite not adding any new plants and some actually shutting down we have still managed to slightly increase the amount of power generated from nuclear almost every year.

          I’m all for heat pumps, but they don’t pump themselves. You still haven’t explained to me how you are going to cost effectively power the entire city in winter during a week long snow storm that hardly has any wind to it.

          Reply
          1. heresy101

            See how to use nuclear to break electric customers, bankrupt Westinghouse, and almost destroy Toshiba in a “too cheap to meter” project. “It’s insane for a project that’s done nothing, and never will. And is just a giant hole in the ground,”
            https://theintercept.com/2019/02/06/south-caroline-green-new-deal-south-carolina-nuclear-energy/
            “The two South Carolina companies, South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper, a state-owned utility, spent $9 billion on a plan to build two nuclear reactors and eventually canceled it due to a series of cost miscalculations and corporate buyouts that left one construction company bankrupt and sent shockwaves all the way to Japanese tech giant Toshiba.”

            “Dominion Energy, an energy giant in the region, has since bought out SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA Corp., for $7.9 billion — almost the entire cost of the failed project — pledged to partially refund ratepayers and cut electricity rates, which SCE&G hiked at least nine times throughout the project’s first eight years in order to pay for it.”

            EIA’s numbers aren’t very clear as far as Minnesota’s electricity generation: 19% is from wind (probably at night and in the winter), 31% from coal (down from 53% ten years ago), 24% from nuclear, 11% from natural gas, and solar and other sources.

            https://fresh-energy.org/where-our-electricity-comes-from/
            In 2021, Xcel energy will be getting 70% carbon free electricity (including nuclear), 24% coal, and 6% natural gas.

            A lot of this energy comes from other states via transmission lines except that MISO isn’t planning well for the addition of renewables and is causing a lot of projects to cancel because they have to bear all of the transmission upgrades; not just the interconnection costs. https://energynews.us/2020/09/29/midwest/grid-congestion-a-growing-barrier-for-wind-solar-developers-in-miso-territory/

            Reply
            1. UserFriendly

              Well, at least we are making the right argument this time.

              So let’s do a hypothetical. I really want another space shuttle. After adjusting for inflation, would it be cheaper if I placed that order today, or back in the 80’s?

              Much cheaper back in the 80’s. Why? Because the supply chains were all still intact. It’s similar with nuclear reactors. When we stopped building them in the 80’s all the supply chains died. Building just one is insanely expensive, if the government credibly agreed to go forward and buy a bunch of them they would be much cheaper. We won’t, because people have an irrational fear of radiation and would much rather end almost all life on this planet with global warming than come to terms with basic facts. Which is why we are dead set on stupiding our way to extinction.

              Yes, Minnesota can be windy at night, but it isn’t always. I have absolutely seen days long stretches where it snows a few feet with nothing more than a light breeze. Until you can power the whole state for at least a week off of almost nothing but batteries you are not offering solutions you are offering wishful thinking. NC covered the storage problem in California, a much more favorable state last year with this video I recommended.

              Reply
          2. Physics Prof

            “God it is so annoying when people toss out dozens of numbers when most of them are irrelevant to the argument.”

            I wasn’t going to call you on it but you did just that above, and egregiously.

            Do you seriously think that those who object to nuclear do so based on radiation leakage under nominal conditions?

            Did you miss this news item:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster

            I’m not even totally anti-nuke, just anti-bloviation.

            Reply
    2. upstater

      Unfortunately it is wishful thinking that TPTB would establish public power by condemning the assets of the IOUs, paying only the fully depreciated value AND abolish the California ISO trading casino. Newscum had his chance with the PG&E bankruptcy.

      You’re talking Green New Deal here, and how is that going to come about? Biden? Trump?

      Let’s not forget that in neighboring Arizona Proposition 127 mandating renewables down by something like 60-40. If you go to the southeastern US renewables are practically illegal. The utilities and finance are vehemently opposed.

      Here in New York state, Cuomo’s clean energy program is handing out $8B to Exelon Corporation to keep 3 50+ year old and a 35 year old nuke plants operating. Incentives for homeowners or new construction are minimal. There are two 20MW windfarms near here and the turbines are very frequently idle because the nukes are handling all the load.

      Just because something is possible and makes sense doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. This isn’t Koch’s commentary, just the reality of neoliberalism.

      Reply
      1. heresy101

        California is ahead of the country on clean renewable energy. My co-workers and I took a small municipal utility to 100% GHG neutral by 2020. Many of the muni’s in CA are already over 60%.

        We have something called a Community Choice Aggregation of electricity (came out of the 2000 CA energy fiasco where we got rid of the Governor) that are primarily counties or groups of counties. Most of the state now has CCAs that purchase energy rather than PG&E and the IOU utilities. The CCA’s purchase and bill electricity for their citizens and their emphasis is on renewables/GHG neutral. Large hydro isn’t renewable in CA but landfill gas and biogas from dairies are renewable because they use methane that is 30x more potent than CO2.

        Many cities/counties want to get out of PG&E and the IOU’s poor maintenance so they are joining or have joined CCA’s. A Green New Deal or straight condemnation of the assets of the IOU’s will become more likely, especially if PG&E is found responsible for one, or more, of the current fires. Bankruptcy be damned; we are fed up with their irresponsible non-functioning. I have done the calculations for PG&E and the $45B cost would leave us paying similar rates but with money allocated for maintenance and upgrading of the system rather than executive bonuses and profit payments.

        If we had a referendum to force CalPERS to invest about $110B in the purchase of the IOUs at a 7% percent interest rate, the citizens would win twice with stable funding for 60% of CalPERS assets for 30 years and have rates that wouldn’t have to go up 8% per year (PG&E for the next 4 years). The neoliberals would spend millions to defeat a Green New Deal or a proposal like this BUT Californians are fed up!

        A bill is be introduced to end fracking in California as well as one putting the EV new car mandate into law.

        Reply
        1. UserFriendly

          I promise not to laugh too hard if Cali pulls the plug on Diablo Canyon and bans nat gas thinking they will be just fine on solar. Rolling blackouts in january will be amusing.

          Reply
  16. Susan the other

    So doesn’t this mean we have to adapt to what we can actually accomplish and then move forward from there as it becomes possible. Day and Night are the only two states we have. And they move across the globe at one timezone per 24 hours. So why can’t we calculate this load? And distribute it back against the flow of time? And then adapt our lifestyle and establish a grid that does likewise. We are never ever gonna have a 24 hour sun. Right? Like a forest.

    Reply
  17. jfleni

    Go to Chicago, where the weather is mostly SEASONABLE all year long! Or even
    L.A. Where the same is true for BART at different times. Both of these places
    have Magnificent transit systems where S###BOXES are almost always
    ridiculous and stupid!

    Reply
  18. d

    part of the problem with these stories, electricity usage has plateaued or falling
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/201794/us-electricity-consumption-since-1975/

    and the grid doesnt = useage. it means that the electricity that is generated may not be able to get to customers. and that is what happened a few years ago in California, when that fire basically trashes a lot of wires, that hadnt been maintained in almost 100 years (so what does that tell us? that they werent much more that 100 years ago.
    so will EV be a problem. depends. is the grid going to collapse again like before? has it been maintained like it was supposed to be? could ask the same question about any of the the utilities, from gas to phone, or CATV.

    Reply
    1. heresy101

      Our small municipal electric utility went from about 430 GWh in 2008 to 350 GWh in 2019.
      A large part of this savings was from switching to LED lights and LED TVs, more efficient refrigerators, and other appliance electricity savings. President Psychopath is mandating that energy efficiency/conservation requirements of the government end.

      We missed our load forecast a couple years because we assumed that plasma TVs would continue to sell but were quickly eclipsed by LEDs in price and electricity usage.

      Reply
  19. grumpy_cyclist

    Is the idea of the EV revolution based on the same amount of car ownership and driving each year?

    It’s just not going to work. It’s techno-narcissism. You gotta shorten the gap to make the EV revolution possible by getting as many cars off the road as possible. Cities need to invest heavily in infrastructure like bus, bike, and maybe the more expensive transit types like light rail. Don’t forget the simple act of walking. Governments including the federal level need to stop the many hidden subsidies for driving including highway expansion.

    Then there’s the issue of planners desperately separating housing from jobs and then even separating housing from shops for good measure. This creates so much needless driving. I can easily see VMT and car ownership collapsing in about 20 years by over half due to both financial hard-ship, better urban planning, oil crisis, or a combination. I wonder how much good it would do to try to take cargo away from trucking and help expand our rail system.

    Then, only then EV’s come out and nom the remaining vehicles on the road. I’m pretty sure future cars are going to be very light-weight, smaller, and slower and require modest electric engines. I also have faith that battery technology can improve in efficiency and more importantly improve in recyclability in time. The gap needed to jump to reach 100% EV’s would still be a big challenge but do-able and a proud challenge to take on.

    Naked Capitalism had a couple good articles on conservation. Reducing the need to drive would be that and should be goal number one.

    Reply

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