Electricity – just flip a switch and the light comes on. Is that battery on your mobile phone running low? Plug it into a charger. Such a simple thing – electricity – we’ve come to just assume it’s there and it works.

But sometimes I wonder whether we as a country can get our electricity act together – or not. I’m not suggesting government actions are the desired solution – but we’re clearly lacking something and paying a price as a result – and likely to pay an even bigger price given the forecasts.

Two recent examples from this morning’s press:

  • In California, the Independent System Operator (responsible for managing all of California’s electricity market), is warning that “it anticipates a shortfall in supplies this summer, especially if extreme heat, wildfires or delays in bringing new power sources online exacerbate the constraints.” In a Wall St. Journal story headlined “Electricity Shortage Warnings Grow Across U.S.”, writer Katherine Blunt notes that “the risk of electricity shortages is rising throughout the U.S. as traditional power plants are being retired more quickly than they can be replaced by renewable energy and battery storage.” Beyond California, grid operators in the midwest and Texas have also recently warned about supply issues expected when summer demand kicks up. Ironically, another headline on the same page as Blunt’s story reads “High Winds Fuel Spring Wildfires in New Mexico.” High winds, how about that?
  • In a story in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle titled “California wants more electric cars. But many public chargers don’t work“, writer Julie Johnson writes that “more than a quarter of public charging stations in the Bay Area don’t work…” The survey she cites didn’t include Tesla charging stations “because those are only available to Tesla drivers.” Apparently the issues aren’t just broken kiosks but other problems like kiosks “blocked by a parked car with a sleeping man inside.” Good grief.

In a society that can’t function without electricity – and which is transitioning toward even more reliance on electricity for electric cars, trains and even airplanes – these problems with electricity supply and distribution are important issues that can’t be ignored.

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