2019 Power Figures Show California Relies On Neighbors To Keep The Lights On

Published On: September 16, 2020

The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently issued its 2019 power generation statistics showing that California used less power in 2019. The figures show overall demand dropped by nearly 3 percent in 2019 as compared to 2018. With the 2020 pandemic, California is expected to continue using less despite some recent extreme heat events. 

The 2019 statistics also provide warning signs for California’s future. California reduced its dependency on conventional power compared to 2018 with coal power down 12.7%, natural gas down 4.6%, and nuclear power down 3.5%. To make up for the difference in power, large hydropower was up nearly a third compared to 2018. Unfortunately, the trend will not continue as California’s large hydropower is down significantly in 2020 due to the drier conditions. 

While California is moving closer to reaching its 33% renewable power goals, it is not due to more power. As a percentage of overall power, renewables moved from 31.36% in 2018 to 31.70% in 2019. However, that change is due to the state using less power. The actual amount renewables produced in 2019 as compared to 2018 dropped by 1.47 gigawatts. 

The numbers also show California’s reliance upon its neighbors to keep the lights on. More than 27% of California’s power comes from imports. California’s dependence upon neighboring states to provide power is evident in the recent extreme heat events hitting most of the west, where California’s grid has been pushed to the brink with rolling blackouts. 

While the once through cooling facilities along California’s coastlines have been extended to up to three years, the added power is only temporary. When those go away California will need to build several gigawatts of new energy or become more reliant on its neighbors for its power.

About the Author: Matt Ross

Matt Ross is a Senior Consultant in the energy industry and has more than a dozen years of experience in state government. He can be reached at matt at govreport.org