California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) talks with reporters after a meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in the U.S. Capitol, on Friday, July 15, 2022.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said the state avoided ordering rolling blackouts when electricity demand peaked this month from scorching heat, and condemned claims that California couldn’t keep the power on.
In an interview with CNBC’s Yasmin Khorram, the governor said the state’s electricity demand almost reached a record 52,000 megawatts during the heat wave, and that California’s effort to accelerate the transition to clean energy has put roughly 4,000 megawatts on the grid that were not available two years ago.
“That only reinforces that we’ve got to not just keep up, we’ve got to jump ahead of Mother Nature, and move this transition forward more aggressively,” Newsom said. “And we are committed to do that.”
Newsom criticized claims by media outlets and Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that California failed to keep the power on during the heat wave, arguing that they “wished” blackouts had occurred because “they want to kill our green energy transition.”
“They want to double down on stupid and continue to drill and actually do more damage,” Newsom said. “And get us more deep in the mess that we created that we’re trying to get out of, which is the hot is getting much hotter, the dry is getting much drier, and the extremes that are self evident, not just here in California, but all over the western United States and around the world, related to climate change.”
“So we want to solve for that,” Newsom continued. “We don’t want to subsidize the problem that we’re trying to get out of. We want to move away from fossil fuels.”
The governor’s remarks come as power grids in states such as California have become more vulnerable to climate-related disasters such as heat waves, storms and wildfires. California, which has set a goal to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2045, has shuttered a slew of gas power plants in the past few years, which has left the state increasingly dependent on solar energy.
Newsom has cited increased battery storage and extended lifetimes of backup generators as major efforts by the state to avoid rolling blackouts. State legislators recently approved a record $54 billion in climate funding, which involved restrictions on oil and gas drilling and a commitment to slash greenhouse gases by at least 85% by 2045.
In August, the state banned the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2035, a rule that will force automakers to quicken the production of cleaner vehicles beginning in 2026 until sales of only zero-emission cars, pickup trucks and SUVs are allowed.