California's blackouts prove it's not a model for climate action after all

The underlying reason blackouts are occurring is because California lacks reliable, in-state supply. And the reason for that is California has been closing both natural gas and nuclear power plants.

“People wonder how we made it through the heat wave of 2006,” said Berberich. “The answer is that there was a lot more generating capacity in 2006 than in 2020…. We had San Onofre [nuclear plant] of 2,200 MW, and a number of other plants, totalling thousands of MW not there today.”

For decades, California Democrats have argued that major economies can run mostly, if not entirely, on renewables. “We are in the future business in California and that means we’re in the renewables business,” said Governor Gavin Newsom in 2016, when he made the case for closing the state’s nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon.

“The situation could have been avoided,” said Berberich. “For many years we have pointed out that there was inadequate supply after electricity from solar has left the peak. We have indicated in filing after filing after filing that procurement needed to be fixed. We have told regulators over and over that more should be contracted for. That was rebuffed. And here we are.”