California received 95 percent of its power from renewables for about four seconds on April 29, with the Golden State using about 90 percent renewables in the afternoon hours during a time of wet, cloudless weather.

Although caveats like not including Sacramento or Los Angeles in the percentage dilute the significance of the achievement, it still means that over 29 million people contributed almost nothing to climate change in terms of their energy needs. California is followed by South Australia, another significant population hub.  which recently achieved 100% demand with renewables.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant was also left out of the renewable energy count, despite the fact that it is currently emitting only steam. When you add in the output of geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass, you have a state grid that is 100 percent renewable during daylight hours.v

“It sends chills down my spine. It’s amazing,” said Elliot Mainzer, president and CEO of the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s main power grid. “These types of transitions aren’t always pretty. But we’re getting a lot of renewable generation online, making a real dent in the state’s carbon emissions,” he told the LA Times.

Mainzer recently urged the state to build another 10,000 megawatts of renewables, or one-eighth of the state’s total baseload capacity, to plug the grid holes that caused rolling blackouts last year.

Gaps in renewable energy input must be filled for two reasons. The first is that electricity is the only resource that must be used immediately after it is produced. That means demand forecasts must be near-perfect at all times. The second difference is that, while fossil fuels have storage by themselves, renewables often do not, and the energy they produce is immediately fed into the grid.

California has been a key leader in partnering with other western states to share surplus power across state lines, building a more stable infrastructure, reducing the need for fossil fuels, and using other states’ expertise to help work around these natural weaknesses in renewable energy.

California, for example, has much more sunshine than Wyoming, but Wyoming has the most reliable wind power of any state. Utility companies in each location will trade on the basis of covering baseload power with each other’s strengths and assisting them with their own surpluses in exchange, minimising fossil fuel input and increasing grid stability.

This is the best approach for defending against blackouts and supply drops due to changing weather before cost-effective and scalable storage technology is widely deployed.

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