According to the lawmaker, Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is responsible for 8% of overall energy and 17% of carbon-free energy in the Golden State. In 2016, however, the California legislature approved a plan to decommission the facility.
“California has some of the most ambitious clean energy mandates in the world,” Feinstein wrote in a letter to Democrat State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Democrat State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins. “However, despite massive investments and commitment, development of non-emitting renewable energy resources like wind, solar, and geothermal are not projected to be installed in time to meet California’s energy demand without power from Diablo Canyon.”
Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-CA) and State Sen. Bill Dodd (D-CA) have submitted legislation to allow Diablo Canyon to continue operating beyond its current shutdown date of 2025. Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) also supports an extension of the plant’s lifespan.
Feinstein referred to extreme heat in August 2020 that led to rolling blackouts as power demand soared. “The consequences would have been even more severe without the electricity from Diablo Canyon,” she noted. “State regulators have projected similar shortfalls and outages during periods of peak demand in the coming years, and retiring a major electricity generation source without adequate preparation will only leave the grid more vulnerable.”
The western United States is currently facing a likely “prolonged and record heat wave” that could lead to temperatures as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service. As a result, the California Independent System Operator is seeking to bring all available resources online to handle higher power demand and expects to issue “voluntary energy conservation” notices over the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
The operator also requested that residents avoid charging their electric vehicles due to additional strain on the grid during certain times. Yet the warnings of low power capacity come days after the California Air Resources Board issued new rules requiring 35% of new vehicles to produce zero emissions by 2026 — a standard that will rise to a 68% benchmark by 2030 and a 100% level by 2035.
Beyond the state of California, other officials across the globe are urging a rapid transition toward renewable energy despite crippling energy shortages. Though natural gas prices in Germany have soared to an order of magnitude higher than usual — leading some Germans to store firewood to heat their homes through the winter — policymakers are slated to continue with a planned closure of the nation’s last three nuclear plants.
German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck recently dismissed concerns of gas shortages by assuring the public that “we have a really good chance of getting through the winter” if households and businesses cut energy usage by 15% to 20%, according to state-funded news outlet Deutsche Welle. He argued that Germany must pivot entirely away from fossil fuels to avoid future disorder wrought by geopolitical turmoil such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk cautioned on Monday that the global economy is at risk by rushing renewable energy adoption. “Realistically I think we need to use oil and gas in the short term, because otherwise civilization will crumble,” the executive told reporters at a summit in Norway. “One of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced is the transition to sustainable energy and to a sustainable economy. That will take some decades to complete.”