California Sets Ambitious New Clean Energy Target

Tony Kappen - 2A Electrical and Computer Engineering
Posted on: September 26, 2018

California, which is already a world leader on clean energy, has upped its commitment even further by committing to 100 % zero-carbon electricity by 2045 – a mere 27 years from now. The bill, SB100 will commit California to get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2045. To go a step further, Jerry Brown, the Governor of California signed an executive order committing the rest of the state’s economy, not just the energy-producing parts – to be carbon neutral by the same date.
California’s shift, although ambitious is not a radical departure by any means. The path to developing a clean economy has been one that California has been walking on for the past 15 years. This is just another step in that direction.
In fact, the logic behind setting the more stringent targets now follows from the state meeting its previous targets years in advance. The previous law required greenhouse emissions to return to their 1990 levels by 2020 (which was achieved this year) and 40 percent below that marker by 2030. In this same period, the economy did not falter as was feared. Instead, it grew by almost 26%. This provided legislators the confidence to pursue a path towards zero-carbon energy sources more confidently and the bill easily passed the legislature.
The state, often the victim of persistent wildfires and drought has embarked on a marathon to be a green powerhouse and is set to reach the finish line a lot sooner than it expected.
California’s decision to embark on this path will increase the odds we all face of reversing the effects of climate change before they become too severe, which is generally considered to be a 2-degree temperature increase. As the world’s fifth’s largest economy (it is almost twice as big as Canada’s), anything California does is going to have an impact. More importantly than just decreasing the number of pollutants pumped into the air, California provides other states, provinces, and countries a path forward. If California can do it, then why can’t it work elsewhere?
Although California is very likely to meet the targets it has set for itself, a few things stand in the way. Primarily, how it plans to get the power for its new green economy. The main path forward has been a greater reliance on wind and solar energy. Solar, which California has in abundance thanks to all its sunshine, is unlikely to pose a problem. Wind power, on the other hand, it intends to source from the mid-western United States. The only problem with this idea is that even though the mid-west is a great source of wind energy, its governments do not have the same drive towards renewable energy sources that California might have. In an attempt to combat spotty sources of power, the state’s governor is pushing an effort to effectively integrate the power grid of those states and that of California. This would ensure that the state has a reliable source of wind energy that is not susceptible to the direction of rapid changes in the political winds.
Even though the risk posed by climate change has become ever more serious, many governments around the world have failed to take action. California has shown that concrete action can be taken, by slowly and steadily striving to meet targets, constantly, and accurately measuring whether those targets have been met and finally, planning ahead and removing any roadblocks well in advance. If it can work in California, then it can certainly work here.

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