Shocker! Electric Cars Buckling California Electric Grid

Shocker! Electric Cars Buckling California Electric Grid
An electric car charges at a mall parking lot in Corte Madera, Calif., on June 27, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
John Seiler

For years I’ve been writing columns saying California’s electric grid couldn’t handle all the electric cars soon to come online. Now it’s obvious because it’s happening in real time.

This week, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) issued a statewide Flex Alert, starting Aug. 31 and continuing for three consecutive days. According to the announcement, the alert is “a call for voluntary electricity conservation … from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., due to high temperatures pushing up energy demand and tightening available power supplies.

“With excessive heat in the forecast across much of the state and Western U.S., the grid operator is expecting high electricity demand, primarily from air conditioning use, and is calling for voluntary conservation steps to help balance supply and demand. Additional Flex Alerts are also possible through the Labor Day weekend as record setting temperatures are forecast across much of the West.”

The alert recommended avoiding activities such as charging electric vehicles between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., “when the grid is most stressed from higher demand and less solar energy.”

This was explained nine years ago in an article by Wayne Lusvardi on a now defunct news site,, where I was managing editor. Yes, this has been known for a long time.

The article brought out what’s called the “duck chart problem,” which happens “as the time profile of energy use looks like a duck when solar power fades out at sunset each day and conventional energy has to ramp up to supply the grid before wind power ramps up.” The problem was projected to start in 2015.

Here’s an updated version of the chart from the ISO, issued in 2016, which does indeed look like a duck.

The 2016 ISO document itself explained:
Oversupply is when all anticipated generation, including renewables, exceeds the real-time demand. The potential for this increases as more renewable energy is added to the grid but demand for electricity does not increase. This is a concern because if the market cannot automatically manage oversupply it can lead to overgeneration, which requires manual intervention of the market to maintain reliability. During oversupply times, wholesale prices can be very low and even go negative in which generators have to pay utilities to take the energy. But the market often remedies the oversupply situation and automatically works to restore the balance between supply and demand. In almost all cases, oversupply is a manageable condition but it is not a sustainable condition over time – and this drives the need for proactive policies and actions to avoid the situation. The duck curve in Figure 2 shows that oversupply is expected to occur during the middle of the day as well.
A similar graph from 2020 also shows the problem. It’s from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and is featured in a Wikipedia entry on the duck curve. Note the graph on the right, for July and August, which shows the problem around 5 to 6 p.m., as solar power declines and wind power has yet to ramp up sufficiently. Aug. 31 is just three weeks before the beginning of autumn, and the sun is setting much earlier.

The entry notes, “Because these graphs do not display energy demand, they are not duck curves themselves, but demonstrate daily and seasonal variation in power production.”

What all this means is the state just isn’t prepared for its current load, let alone the extra juice needed for all those electric cars soon to be charging up. Just a week ago, the California Air Resources Board mandated all new vehicles sold in the state must be electric by 2035. Not explained was how the state’s already rickety electric grid would be bolstered to handle the vast new loads.
The appeal of electric cars is people don’t have to pay the recently inflated prices for gasoline and diesel. But according to Swedish journalist Peter Imanuelsen, “Electricity prices in Norway are set to reach about $1 per kwh [kilowatt hour]. At these prices, it would cost $100 to fully charge a Tesla.”
Prices aren’t that high yet in California. In May 2022, they were $27.02 per kilowatt hour, about a quarter that in Norway. But a major crisis here such as Europe currently is facing could send them soaring.
So it’s no wonder, as I wrote on The Epoch Times a week ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open. Because a massive blackout across large swaths of California would send his presidential hopes into a black hole.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is [email protected]
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