Between COVID-19, the chronic homeless problem afflicting the region, and multiple recalls – one for the governor who qualifies for the September election, three for the Los Angeles City Council and one for the district attorney – it’s a miracle that other problems get “ink” or airtime. But as Southern California enters the hottest part of summer, the pervasive drought, forest fires, and rolling power outages are sure to vie for media attention.
Because of this, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ vote in late July against increasing storage capacity at Aliso Canyon received little attention – and what coverage it received wasn’t the whole story.
As homeowners and businesses across the Los Angeles area know, renewable energy alone won’t keep the lights on, and besides being inconvenient, rolling blackouts are incredibly costly – both economically and from a public health and safety perspective .
It is understandable that some elected officials are against the efforts to increase natural gas storage capacity. Parts of the San Fernando Valley will never forget the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas leak. Fortunately, Aliso Canyon and other natural gas storage facilities have been redesigned since the leak.
When you step back and look at the problem from a broader perspective, the reality is that millions of Southern California businesses, hospitals, and households rely on natural gas, especially from this SoCalGas storage field, to keep electricity flowing. To date, no one has suggested a viable alternative to Aliso Canyon – one that prevents power outages and is affordable.
The County Board of Supervisor’s motion indicates that “despite numerous reports and declarations that the loss of Aliso Canyon as a natural gas storage facility would affect the region’s supply, even in colder seasons of the year there was no natural gas storage.”
Aliso Canyon plays a critical role in the resilience of California’s energy system. The Supervisory Board’s motion does not mention that since 2016, five independent assessments of SoCalGas’ gas storage system have all come to the conclusion that gas storage, particularly Aliso Canyon, is essential to the region’s energy reliability.
SoCalGas has spoken publicly on the matter, saying, “We saw firsthand in February how Aliso Canyon and our other storage fields not only helped keep the lights off here in California when gas supplies from Texas were limited, but also protect customers from price peaks in other federal states. “
SoCalGas added: “Deliveries from Aliso Canyon have become increasingly important during the summer months. The system was already required several times this summer during times of high energy demand. Without the Aliso Canyon, the rolling power outages in the LA area last summer would probably have been much worse. “
The motion of the supervisory board establishes that no natural gas shortage has occurred.
The reason these bottlenecks didn’t occur is because Aliso Canyon was there when we needed it. Since July 2019, Aliso Canyon has been used for 150 days for system support – by the way, this information is all publicly available.
This is where ideologically rigid environmental activists come into play. Though renewables alone can’t put the lights on, especially when it’s hot and demand is greatest, they say, “It’s time for the CPUC to speak out and stop expanding the Aliso Gorge.”
What is not being said is that Southern California Edison and CPUC tollpayer advocate The Utility Reform Network (TURN) supported the motion to increase Aliso Canyon’s storage capacity.
We live in a world where it is easy to paint a misleading picture on simple subjects. Energy reliability and affordability, which are now inextricably linked with debates about climate change and carbon neutrality, are complex. So the capacity for misinformation and half-truths increases exponentially, especially among those with different agendas.
Inquiries to the CPUC to increase the storage capacity of Aliso Canyon make sense. The data shows that it has already helped keep the lights on and affordable in the coldest parts of winter … and we need it now when we step into the hot summer. Don’t be fooled by simple “solutions” to complex problems.
Stuart Waldman is President of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA).