Green New Boondoggle: California's Power Grid Needs $9 Billion to Go Green

State utility operator identifies 46 projects needed to support solar, wind, electric cars

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) / Reuters
April 4, 2023

California must spend a whopping $9.3 billion on power grid upgrades to support its transition to green energy, a policy push that has already brought soaring electricity prices to the Golden State.

The California Independent System Operator, a nonprofit that oversees the state's electric grid, on Monday identified 46 projects the state must fund to complete its transition to solar and wind energy and support increased use of electric cars and home appliances. Those projects, which include new transmission lines and other grid upgrades, will cost billions of dollars and take years to build, the operator said.

Californians already pay some of the highest electricity bills in the nation, and Democratic governor Gavin Newsom's "aggressive" approach to "accelerate the state's transition to clean energy" will likely only increase those bills. Natural gas is cheaper than electricity, and California's push toward electric cars and appliances have led to increased power demand that utility providers have struggled to manage.

Electricity prices, for example, rose 15 percent in 2022 alone and have increased roughly 80 percent since 2008, when the state began its green energy push. California's increased reliance on electricity as residents move away from gas-powered appliances and vehicles, meanwhile, has strained the state's power grid, prompting rolling blackouts last summer for the first time in two decades.

Those problems, state economists say, could prompt political blowback as Californians sour on the increased prices and decreased reliability that have come with green energy in the Golden State. "It's a huge problem," University of California, Berkeley professor Severin Borenstein told E&E News in January. Should California mandate clean electricity, Borenstein added, "then there's just going to be huge political blowback. Mandating electrification when you're charging people 30 or 40 cents a kilowatt-hour is going to be immensely expensive."

That has not stopped Newsom from moving full speed ahead with his green energy transition. Last week, President Joe Biden's Environmental Protection Agency approved Newsom's request to ban diesel trucks and semi-tractors by 2045, a move experts say will raise the cost of shipped goods and strain the state's grid even further.

"It's a fantasy type of policy that is not grounded on where the current technology is," senior Pacific Research Institute fellow Wayne Winegarden told the Washington Free Beacon in March.

Still, the Biden administration has repeatedly praised California's green energy policies, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm crediting the state for inspiring her to "move faster and further" toward a green transition. "I love the fact that California is unabashedly bold about energy policy," Granholm said in September. "California's boldness has, I think, shaped our willingness in the federal government to move further and faster."