CA Drought Affects Green Energy Sources

Posted February 10, 2014 at 7:31am

Foreign Policy reports that “among all the terrible things that California’s historic drought promises to bring this year – fallow farm land, dead livestock, more wildfires – there are a couple more nasty treats in store: higher electricity prices and rising greenhouse-gas emissions.”  

“That’s because the drought is hammering California’s ability to generate electricity from hydroelectric power, which will push the famously green state to burn even more natural gas, which is both pricier and dirtier. It underscores yet again just how vulnerable green energy sources such as hydropower can be to the vagaries of the weather, an issue that will vex not just the U.S., but also Brazil, China and other countries that have bet heavily on hydropower to run their growing economies.”  

The piece continues: “But wait – it gets worse. Since California uses more electricity than it generates, it relies on imports from nearby states, including hydroelectric power from the normally rainy Pacific Northwest. But the drought is also hammering Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, where precipitation is in many cases about half the normal level. And that will limit California’s ability to fix its own shortfalls. The only easy answer is to use more natural gas, which costs more and is significantly dirtier.”  

“‘There will be rate impacts, because we’ll be using more expensive fuel, and there will be air-quality impacts in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions,’ Robert Weisenmiller, the chairman of the California Energy Commission, told Foreign Policy.”