California drought takes toll on electricity production

Mono Lake California August 2014

Hydropower plant production hit hard

The nearly five-year drought that California is still battling has wreaked havoc on many parts of the state and impacted many industries, the utility industry included.

The California drought that is still ongoing is one of the most severe droughts on record. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency Jan. 17, 2014, and it has yet to be rescinded.

The Pacific Institute, recently released a detailed assessment of drought impacts in the four-year span of October 2011 through September 2015, and found that drought conditions in the state led to an increase in electricity costs of more than $2.0 billion.

The majority of the additional cost came due to a marked decrease in hydroelectric production due to reduced river flows that power hundreds of hydropower stations in the state. With less hydro power, the state was forced to utilize natural gas more often, a switch that the Pacific Institute called an “expensive change.”

El Niño to the rescue?

Strong El Niño-fueled storms have been hitting California since the end of 2015, and heavy rain and snow has been the result in many areas.

But despite the heavy rains, the state’s drought problems are far from over, as much of the rain water was not captured and instead flowed into the sea.

While the recent storms are a welcomed presence, the state needs them to keep coming to pull itself out of the prolonged drought.

Source → Pacific Institute
Photo Credit: Photo by Maryphillips1952 / CC BY-SA 4.0