Electricity Load Outside the Northwest Expected to be Modest; California is a Big Exception

In order to produce long-term wholesale electricity prices for its upcoming regional power plan, the Council forecasts load for areas outside the Pacific Northwest. While this forecast shows moderate growth overall, states pursuing high electrification policies should see significant increases in their load growth. California’s load is expected to increase from 30,000 average megawatts in 2021 to 53,000 average megawatts by 2050 as it strives to decarbonize its economy.

High electrification strategies aim to reduce carbon emissions by electrifying transportation, expanding on-site solar generation, and switching from fossil fuels to electricity. As these initiatives grow, demand for electricity is expected to increase substantially. By 2050, California loads are expected to be about 53 percent higher.

So, while overall growth in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council’s system is moderate, as states adopt deep electrification policies in response to climate change, their loads can increase anywhere from 36 percent to 53 percent, according to E3 analysis.

Hourly patterns of load would also change as on-site solar generation—consumers adopting rooftop solar panels—lowers demand during the mid-day, which could affect electricity prices.

“It’s likely that prices would be depressed during the day because of all the solar generation from rooftops and then increase in the evening,” notes Manager of Economics Analysis Massoud Jourabchi.

This could influence utility resource strategies, depending on what prices look like during the mid-day. “It could be an opportunity to take advantage of those low mid-day prices,” adds Manager of Planning and Analysis John Ollis.