California is facing another week of rolling blackouts across its state, an energy crisis Alabama leaders point to as a lesson on the importance of making good decisions on energy policy.
A summer heatwave has put pressure on California’s electrical grid at a time when it is attempting to transition to generating power exclusively through solar and wind.
On August 14, the state’s grid operator declared a system emergency. Millions of homes and businesses have experienced rolling blackouts, for hours at a time, since then.
Twinkle Cavanaugh, president of the Alabama Public Service Commission, believes the situation out in California is a preventable one.
“There is a nightmare energy scenario playing out in California,” she told Yellowhammer News. “We’ve gone to great lengths in Alabama to prevent exactly what is happening there. The way to make sure your grid does not get overwhelmed is to utilize all of the most affordable and reliable energy options.”
California has seen its energy prices rise six times more than the rest of the United States as it has begun implementing its renewables-only policy, according to Forbes.
For one of its elected officials, the cost is too much when reliability is lost and blackouts become necessary.
“You can’t run a 21st century economy that’s the fifth largest on the planet with wind and solar,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno.
The connection between reliable energy and economic growth is clear for an Alabama small business leader.
“You cannot run a business without power,” stated Rosemary Elebash, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Elebash told Yellowhammer News that energy production, disaster recovery and energy efficiency all have a hand in creating reliability and affordability for small businesses.
Her organization has formed partnerships with Alabama Power and electric cooperatives from around the state aimed at giving NFIB members the confidence to open their doors every day.
She pointed toward a program NFIB created with Alabama Power more than five years ago which educates small business owners on ways they can gain greater energy efficiency in their places of business.
“Alabama Power will perform free energy audits for any small businesses in their service area, and most electric cooperatives do the same thing,” noted Elebash. “They have truly been great partners for small business owners. They want to make main street a viable economic partner.”
George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama, expressed similar sentiment about the vital role reliable energy plays in the operations of Alabama’s large industrial employers.
“We commend the leadership of the Alabama Public Service Commission and Alabama Power for ensuring Manufacture Alabama members, the largest customers of Alabama Power, do not have to worry about going without power,” Clark commented to Yellowhammer News. “Their leadership enhances the opportunity for growth of Alabama manufacturers and helps fulfill the vision of Manufacture Alabama, to make Alabama the best business and political location in the U.S. for manufacturers.”
Meanwhile, the supply shortfalls in California, the worst since 2001, have hit its businesses hard.
Those problems have been avoided in Alabama, and Cavanaugh thinks poor energy choices are to blame in the Golden State.
“You have to keep natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewables as options,” she explained. “You don’t take them away, which is what California has done by adopting Green New Deal policies. Alabama families and Alabama jobs depend on reliable energy, and we’re going to make sure they get it.”
Officials in California have warned that conditions for blackouts may continue through Friday or Saturday, potentially adding millions more residents and businesses to the list of those losing power.
Editors note: This story has been updated from a previous version to include comments from George Clark of Manufacture Alabama.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia