Green transition - California at risk of blackouts with the rise of electric cars

California is at the forefront of new technologies, but has had a problem for years that could even worsen with increasing adoption of mobility on tap: Electricity distribution networks continue to be obsolete and unable to sustain the increased demand for recharging battery-powered cars. The alarm was raised by Ram Rajagopal, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and co-author of a study on the impact of electric mobility on energy networks. “We will have a sizeable number of vehicles charging at home as everyone dreams of, but today’s network may not be able to support them,” Rajagopal told Yahoo Finance, commenting on data provided by the California Independent System Operator, the manager of the company. ‘80% of the state electrical infrastructure. In essence, in the coming months the entire distribution system risks finding itself with a supply deficit of 1,700 megawatts, a quantity capable of satisfying the needs of approximately 1.3 million homes. However, the shortfall could reach 4,000 / 5,000 megawatts in the event of extreme weather conditions and forest fires.

The resolutions of the Sacrament. Therefore, Californians must prepare to face a summer of blackout as already occurred in previous years, often due to the damage caused to the power lines by the increasingly frequent fires linked to rising temperatures. The problem, for the most populous state in the US, risks being exacerbated by the intentions of the Sacramento authorities, which intend to impose a stop on the sale of combustion cars by 2035. In this case, the state electricity grid would face an additional demand. difficult to sustain, especially in light of the intermittent problem of renewable sources on which the Golden State is strongly focusing: by 2024, all energy production will have to abandon the use of fossil fuels. Also for this reason, Governor Gavin Newsom has advanced the possibility of extending the life of the only nuclear power plant still operating in California (the Diablo Canyon plant), but destined to close between 2024 and 2025. On the other hand, the Utilities’ main concern is how to handle the peak demand for recharging. Models developed by the team led by Rajagopal suggest that, in California, that peak is set to more than double in 2030 and show itself towards sunset, coinciding with the return home of workers. It is a pity that this is the moment in which the electricity grid must support the loss of solar production and the simultaneous transition to other energy sources.

The other alarms. The alarm from California is coupled with similar warnings. Last year Huw Merriman, chair of the UK House of Commons Transport Commission, illustrated a report on the consequences of the rapid adoption of electric mobility on the resilience of the British destruction network. Also in this case there was a warning of the danger of frequent balck-outs without changes in consumer habits and, even more so, without strengthening the power line network. On the other hand, the tightness of the networks is already being severely tested by climate change, with the increase in temperatures which leads to an increasingly frequent use of air conditioning systems. In this regard, it should be remembered the alarm launched last year by Unareti, the manager of the Milanese infrastructure. The blackouts that affected the Milanese capital were essentially due to the simultaneous switching on of miles of air conditioners and the related overloading of the network. Unareti then stressed that “to overcome the inefficiencies that can occur in the presence of increases in load on the network, huge investments are required which require a long time to be completed”. In an interview with Quattroruote last December, Renato Mazzoncini, current CEO of the Lombard utility A2A, quantified the resources needed to adapt the Milanese network to potential peaks in demand at 1.5 billion euros also linked to the increase in battery car recharging. Throughout Italy, between 50 and 60 billion euros of investments on electricity grids alone would be needed.

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