DEPENDING ON WHOM you ask, California is a leader in clean energy or a cautionary tale. Power outages in August prompted stern critiques from Republicans. “In California”, Donald Trump tweeted, “Democrats have intentionally implemented rolling blackouts—forcing Americans in the dark.” In addition to provoking outrage and derision, however, the episode is also likely to inspire investment.
The Golden State has long been America’s main testing ground for green companies. Californians buy half of all electric cars sold in America. Theirs is the country’s largest solar market. As California deals with heat waves, fires and a goal of carbon-free electricity by 2045, the need for a reliable grid is becoming ever more obvious. For years firms competed to generate clean power in California. Now a growing number are vying to store and manage it, too.
August’s blackouts have many causes, including poor planning, an unexpected lack of capacity and sweltering heat in not just California but nearby states from which it sometimes imports power. Long before the outages, however, electricity operators were anxious about capacity. California’s solar panels become less useful in the evening, when demand peaks. In November state regulators mandated that utilities procure an additional 3.3 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, including giant...
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