Californians are once again struggling with devastating wildfires and another hot summer that has wreaked havoc on the state. Both placed an enormous strain on our electrical grid, causing rolling black outs across the state, sometimes for days at a time. So, at a time when the electrical grid is under this much pressure, imagine the shock to hear the governor of California come out with an insane plan to force all of our automobiles onto our already-failing electrical grid. This along with recent actions by state agencies show how unserious Sacramento really is with our energy crisis.
Late last month, the California Public Utilities Commission approved $436M for an electric vehicle (EV) charging program run by the Southern California Edison utility company, which amounts to the largest utility plan in the United States. This program is riddled with problems.
Utility Company Plan Limits Private Competition
First, it allows utility companies to increase the electric bills on their customers during a time when the economy has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and many are out of work and struggling to make ends meet. In addition, allowing a utility company to charge their customers to cover the costs of building EV infrastructure makes it nearly impossible for private sector companies, particularly small businesses, to compete in this marketplace.
Private companies will have to use private funds to build EV chargers, but they cannot compete with a business who can charge all of their customers, most of which are forced to use their services, to fund this infrastructure development. Without fair private sector competition, fewer EV chargers overall will be built. Ironically, that completely defeats the purpose of the program.
Grid Not Able to Supply Additional Electricity Needed for EVs
The elephant in the room however is that even without these operational problems with the program, the California electrical grid is not prepared to supply the additional electricity needed if more EVs are on the road. It doesn’t matter what Governor Newsom’s visions are for the future of our highways. You can’t put millions more EV’s on the road and expect the electrical grid to support it. Recently a colleague told me that after careful measurement his electric vehicle required thirty five percent of the energy that his house required.
This summer while the fires and intense summer heat raged, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti asked residents to “turn off major appliances, set the thermostat to 78 degrees (or use a fan instead), turn off excess lights and unplug any appliances you’re not using.” No one was shocked when he was wildly mocked as everyone cranked up their A/Cs anyway! Imagine how much worse this will be if there are millions of EVs drawing on our aged electrical infrastructure at peak demand times.
‘Worst in the Nation’
California’s electrical grid is the worst in the nation. It cannot handle Governor Newsom’s EV dreams. The money the utility companies are taking from customers to build EV charging stations would be better spent on improving the reliability of the electrical grid in the state, because without a reliable grid, your state-ordered electric vehicle is as good as a plastic flamingo in the front yard.
About the Author
Steve Brandau represents north Fresno and west Clovis as the District 2 Supervisor on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. He also serves on the Fresno County Transportation Authority for Measure C.