California is consuming 20% less natural gas this summer than in the same months of 2015, relying instead on surging solar, rebounding hydro capacity, and an increase in energy imports, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.
Solar generation grew 33% in one year, while hydro is expected to supply 14% of state demand this summer—far less than historical highs of 40%, but well above the drought–induced low of 6%. Natural gas still makes up more than half of California’s electricity mix, but consumption has varied widely on an hourly basis, from 3.0 gigawatts in mid-June to more than 25.0 in mid-July.
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“During midday peaks this summer, hydro and solar provided more of California’s power than last year,” Greentech Media reports. “And as solar power faded in the evening, imported power made up an increasing portion of the power mix compared to 2015.” Imports averaged 6.0 to 9.0 GW on the average summer day.
Greentech points to the Aliso Canyon gas leak and California’s plan to phase out the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant as factors that will drive greater reliance on renewable energy and demand-side management. “To manage the threats of rolling blackouts next year, Southern California utilities are investing in battery storage at record speed to accommodate the natural gas limits that are expected from shutting down the natural gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon,” explains Senior Writer Katherine Tweed.