California Energy Generation on April 2, 2017 – Courtesy of California Independent System Operator

On April 2, 2017, California wasted a record 10 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean energy.

And it’s no joke that the state wasted 9 million kWh on April Fool’s Day, a day earlier. We all want more clean, renewable energy, so why isn’t it being used?

California’s electric power supply (or most of it) is managed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). CAISO dispatches the state’s various electric power resources and manages the marketplace for electric power. The marketplace is complex, but the state regulations strongly favor clean energy over electric power from fossil fuels for environmental reasons. Even so, there are times when the state can’t shut down enough fossil fuel plants in response to solar and wind power production. During these times, solar and wind power plants are shut down instead to stabilize the system until demand increases, hence the waste.

California’s Clean Energy Resources are Incredible

At Sabreez, we monitor the daily output of California’s clean energy resources closely, and it’s been an incredibly productive year for clean energy. That’s a very good thing. Through wind and solar resources, Mother Nature is able to provide for more than 50% of Californians’ energy needs during some hours of the day, and that’s not even including power generated by hydroelectric resources.

As can be seen in the image, electric power from thermal resources (or burning fossil fuels) drops down to almost nothing during the middle of the day when renewable energy is sufficient to meet demand. However, as demand rises in the evening, thermal resources ramp up and production triples over a short period of time in the evening (shown for hour 20 on the image). Then it decreases during the late night and into the early morning hours. The dramatic swings in demand make it challenging for the state to balance production from renewable and non-renewable sources.

Fortunately, solar costs have come down enough that wasting 20% of the solar output isn’t going to break the bank. But wouldn’t it be nice if people would just use energy when it’s cleaner instead of in the late afternoon when natural gas turbines are cranking up to meet increased consumer demand?

When it’s Sunny and Windy, Energy Can be Free

Wholesale energy prices are often turning negative during the middle of the day this time of year. When weather conditions are just right, renewable energy is so plentiful that the generation component of the electric bill becomes a payment. This can greatly reduce overall hourly costs for customers with direct access to the grid, like larger commercial businesses.  This phenomenon will disappear when air conditioning use picks up in the late spring, but the negative pricing will return in the fall, and continue until the state balances demand with supply.

Californians can choose to use a time of use rate to take advantage of this bounty of clean energy. They can also sign up for a program with companies like ohmconnect, Chai Energy, or Energy Hub to receive money when they shift their energy usage. The state of California is adopting mandatory time of use pricing in 2019. That means electricity will cost more when fossil fuel burning plants are cranking up to meet high demand. Conversely, it means that when energy is cleaner, it will cost less. Think about that for a second. You can put solar on your home, or you can just use solar power when it’s sunny and save money. Even better, when it’s windy and sunny, you can save even more. It’s easier than you think, and we’ve produced a new smart grid owners_manual to help.

To Save Money and Renewable Energy, Simply Shift

In short order, companies like Sabreez will offer consumers real time pricing information to know when to shift their energy use to save money and reduce waste. Now that California is wasting up to 10 million kWh of electric power a day, it can’t happen soon enough.


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