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20 Aug, 2020 00:14

‘Turn up your damn thermostat!’ Ex-gov 'Moonbeam,' whose policies fueled power crisis, has no sympathy for California blackouts

‘Turn up your damn thermostat!’ Ex-gov 'Moonbeam,' whose policies fueled power crisis, has no sympathy for California blackouts

Former governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown is showing no sympathy for the millions of Californians now subject to rolling blackouts amid a brutal heatwave – let alone remorse – even though his policies contributed to power shortages.

"Hey California! We can avoid a blackout, but you have to turn up your damn thermostat," Brown tweeted on Tuesday night. Brown, presumably, isn't suffering the same fate of air-conditioning deprivation at his entirely solar-powered home on a 2,500-acre ranch in rural northern California.

California's grid operator ordered rolling blackouts last Friday and Saturday as scorching heat spurred demand for power to run air conditioners. Power was shut off to as many as 410,000 homes for about one hour at a time over a peak-demand period of three-and-a-half hours.

As many as 3.3 million homes were at risk of being included in the temporary power shutdowns. The heat was so bad that California's Death Valley had a high of 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius), which may be the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth if verified by the National Weather Service.

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Wildfires contributed to the problem, as did the unexpected shutdown of a 470-megawatt power plant. But grid operator CAISO also cited the loss of nearly 1,000 megawatts of wind power output because the wind wasn't blowing hard enough on Saturday, demonstrating the intermittency of renewable energy sources. And solar power output drops off as the Sun goes down, reducing supplies during peak demand periods of the early evening.

Brown, who was given the nickname "Governor Moonbeam" by Chicago columnist Mike Royko when he ran for president in 1976, has a lot to do with California's high reliance on renewables. During his second two-term stint as governor in 2011-2019 – the Democrat previously held the position in 1975-1983 – he set a goal of pushing the state's electricity slate to 100 percent renewables by 2045.

Brown helped push the renewable rate to a current level of about 30 percent, but in so doing, he forced utilities to cut investment in grid maintenance, which led to more supplies being cut off during wildfires. Brown forced southern California's San Onofre nuclear power plant, which had a massive 2,200 megawatts of generation capacity, to be shut down in 2013.

He's unapologetic for the results. In fact, Brown was quoted on Saturday by USA Today as saying that the rolling blackouts are "a kerfuffle, not a crisis." He added that California's bigger challenge will be reducing its reliance on fossil fuels as climate change warms the planet.

California Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican, blamed the crisis on policies by Brown and his successor, Governor Gavin Newsom, that shift energy reliance to renewables from natural gas. "You can't run a 21st century economy that's the fifth-largest on the planet with wind and solar," Patterson said.

Brown's call for conservation to get through the "kerfuffle" was met with some support on Twitter, where users spoke of the sacrifices they were making to help keep power demand down. "It's 108 in Palm springs at 8pm, and my AC has been turned off for three hours," a retired college professor said. "If I can do that, the rest of you can, too."

But other netizens mocked Brown, such as one who said: "We get it. We know we live in a third-world state." Another said: "This country can send a drone to murder any wedding party in the world, but we cannot have a reliable electric grid or postal service. Bin Laden won."

Others noted Brown's policies specifically, such as one who tweeted: "This is a false emergency created by faulty planning and policy – not an opportunity to band together and take one for the team. If we don't demand better, we're stuck with substandard infrastructure."

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