Gas and Power Grid Link Means L.A. Could Be Gigawatts Short This Summer

Simulations show the potential for wider problems, because of natural gas dependence and poor understanding of feedback effects between the two systems

4 min read
Gas and Power Grid Link Means L.A. Could Be Gigawatts Short This Summer
Photo: Environmental Defense Fund

A Potent Plume: An infrared camera spotted the greenhouse gas methane pouring from California’s Aliso Canyon storage site last year.Video: Environmental Defense Fund

Grid operators in Southern California are on edge in the aftermath of a massive leak from Aliso Canyon, the region’s largest natural-gas storage facility. With the storage field shuttered until further notice, inadequate supply to gas-fired power plants in the Los Angeles basin could force rolling blackouts this summer, which begins this month. These might affect “millions of utility customers” for up to 14 days, according to a joint report by state agencies and utilities.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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