What Does The Clean Power Plan Have In Store? Don’t Count Out Electron Laundering
……Before global warming became a concern, the Pacific Northwest and California traded electricity north and south. California needed more power during the summer to run air conditioners. The Northwest’s extensive hydroelectricity system provided that power. In the winter, when river flows in the Northwest ebbed and heating needs soared, California would return the favor and sell its surplus power north.
The West Coast’s logical and cost-effective power arrangement started to take a different tone when California decided to save the world single-handedly by reducing its carbon emissions with the passage of AB 32, The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Seeing a business opportunity, British Columbia could now claim its abundant hydropower was clean and green. Little known in California was that B.C. bought cheap nighttime coal power from the U.S. and Alberta to conserve water behind its dams so as to sell more hydropower in the daytime.
Electron laundering, the process of selling expensive “green” electrons into the grid and then backfilling them with “dirty” electrons, isn’t just limited to Canada. Oregon has installed hundreds of wind turbines, but less than a quarter of the wind-generated electricity is used in the state, with most of it being sold to California. In fact, coal accounts for more than a third of Oregon’s electricity needs while wind only provides 5 percent.
California claims that coal only delivered 6 percent of its electricity mix in 2014. Why such a wide disparity between adjacent states? As two Oregonians note, coal power is cheap and reliable while California’s legislatively-mandated renewable energy targets force it to buy all the renewable energy it can get.