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The growing belief that we must electrify everything, including home and building heating, may sound environmentally “green,” but it’s fraught with environmental danger. Electricity produced by environment-threatening means must be avoided.

Electricity is indeed the “cleanest” flexible energy conveyance from here to there, but its generating sources actually define the cleanliness of its use. If the source is coal, or wood, or gas or oil from leaking wells, or most any other combustion source, the electricity is tainted by sources that we know threaten the environment. These sources should be avoided.

In California, most of our electricity is produced by gas combustion, in about 50% efficient combined-cycle plants or about 30% efficient turbines in “peaker” plants. Past regulators (such as the CPUC and CEC) and governors have added new gas plants, as Gov. Gavin Newsom recently has, rather than add reliable clean power sources, as the California Commission on Science and Technology advised in 2011.

Newsom and our regulators have even asked the federal government to allow us to violate emissions laws because of our increased dependence on fracked gas-powered (and unreliable wind and solar) electric generation. Why?

Our only clean electricity now comes from The Geysers (a geothermal plant in Northern California), some state and imported hydro, some imported nuclear from Palo Verde in Arizona, intermittent wind and solar installations, and from our Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, located in San Luis Obispo. Diablo is the largest source of reliable, clean electricity we have in all California. It’s unaffected by weather, drought, earthquakes or darkness. And it is scheduled to be shut down. Why?

Why are we so short on clean power in the most populous state? Ask our politicians. We created a commission in 2011 to help us “follow the science” but ignored it. We allowed our San Onofre nuclear plant in San Clemente to be shut for no valid reason in 2013. It was replaced by new natural gas fired-power. Why? The attorney general’s investigation of Sempra Energy and Edison International was never completed.

In any case, any sensible California plan to “electrify everything” had best first de-gas our electric generation, or enter the annals of California goofs, like building Oroville Dam poorly, or regulating PG&E poorly, even killing people with gas and burning forests via poor power line and forest maintenance. Ours is the most populous state. We boast the largest economy. Shouldn’t our officials deliver competence?

As for Menlo Park, we’re fortunate in having some of the cleanest electricity because we’re in Diablo Canyon’s distribution realm and “gas/unspecified” is less than half of PG&E’s power pie. Fifty-nine percent of our energy is clean. And of course Diablo, which now supplies 23% of our power, but may be foolishly shut down in a couple of years. Why?

Of course, PG&E’s “unspecified” pie slice offers lots of opportunity for sneaking in some combustion sources, like Warren Buffet’s Pacificorp coal.

Back to electrifying Menlo: Our electricity (unless Diablo shuts down) appears to be less than half bad. However, another reality is common everywhere the word ‘renewables’ appears. Wind and solar power have low reliabilities — wind may deliver 40% of what its equipment is designed for each year, but solar is even worse, at 25% or less. Business folks don’t like such “nonperforming” assets.

Their unpredictability means we must design a power system that can quickly call up other, reliable, power sources. And what do our regulators and politicians do for that? Burn gas.

Even when the wind is blowing and/or the sun is up, we burn our favorite — gas. It’s called “backdown mode” for gas turbines that we wish not to damage via quick starts and stops. These are our “peaker” plants.

About 25% of full-power gas is burned in peakers’ “backdown” mode. Their emissions are part of the wind and solar backup burden.

So if Menlo Park wants to move to all-electric building codes, perhaps it should first help educate our Legislature, governor, and regulators and move them onto the right track. Sources of electricity matter and they are not under local control, but their effects are felt worldwide, and by our descendants. What will they think of us?

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente por The Almanac.

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