Cal­i­for­nia aims to drop fos­sil fu­els for elec­tric­ity by 2045

Manteca Bulletin - - Local/State -

SACRA­MENTO (AP) — Cal­i­for­nia has set a goal of phas­ing out elec­tric­ity pro­duced by fos­sil fu­els by 2045 un­der leg­is­la­tion signed Mon­day by Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the pol­icy should serve as a model for other states and na­tions.

Brown, who has po­si­tioned Cal­i­for­nia as a global leader in the ef­fort to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions, ap­proved the mea­sure as he pre­pares to host a sum­mit in San Fran­cisco of cli­mate change lead­ers from around the world start­ing Wed­nes­day.

The new law, along with an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Brown signed di­rect­ing Cal­i­for­nia to take as much car­bon diox­ide out of the air as it emits, rep­re­sent the lat­est in a string of am­bi­tious en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives as Cal­i­for­nia seeks to fill a void left by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord and his ef­forts to boost the coal in­dus­try.

“We want oth­ers to do like­wise, and if enough peo­ple of­ten enough do what is needed we will curb global warm­ing,” Brown said dur­ing an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press. “But we’re def­i­nitely at the beginning of what’s go­ing to be a long and dif­fi­cult and con­tentious jour­ney.”

The state is push­ing to rapidly ex­pand adop­tion of elec­tric ve­hi­cles and has cre­ated a “cap and trade” pro­gram to put a price on car­bon emis­sions, cre­at­ing in­cen­tives to re­duce them. It’s work­ing to­ward a goal to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 40 per­cent over the next 12 years.

The ef­forts have drawn crit­i­cism from business groups wor­ried about ris­ing elec­tric bills. Some en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say Brown is too cozy with oil and gas in­ter­ests and plan to dis­rupt the San Fran­cisco sum­mit.

The re­new­able en­ergy mea­sure would re­quire Cal­i­for­nia’s util­i­ties to gen­er­ate 60 per­cent of their en­ergy from wind, so­lar and other spe­cific re­new­able sources by 2030. That’s 10 per­cent higher than the cur­rent man­date.

The goal would then be to use only car­bon-free sources to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity by 2045. It’s merely a goal, with no man­date or penalty for falling short. Cal­i­for­nia’s re­new­able en­ergy goal is not as am­bi­tious as Hawaii, which has adopted a 100 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy man­date.

Phas­ing out fos­sil fu­els would be a mas­sive change in the en­ergy grid. Util­i­ties rely on nat­u­ral gas plants to meet de­mand when re­new­ables fall short, par­tic­u­larly in the early evening when the sun sets and peo­ple turn on their air con­di­tion­ers as they get home from work.

Util­i­ties are al­ready deal­ing with an abun­dance of so­lar en­ergy dur­ing peak times, which must be off­loaded to other states when there’s not enough de­mand lo­cally for the power.

Brown ad­vo­cates for a re­gional en­ergy grid that would more eas­ily al­low Western states to share en­ergy. An ef­fort he pushed has died the past two years in the Leg­is­la­ture, with crit­ics ar­gu­ing Cal­i­for­nia shouldn’t be part of a grid with states that rely on coal. But Brown on Mon­day said mov­ing to­ward a re­gional grid is es­sen­tial to achiev­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s new 100 per­cent clean en­ergy goal with­out send­ing elec­tric prices sky­rock­et­ing.

“Those who don’t want it are go­ing to be foist­ing very high prices on Cal­i­for­nia, and I think there will be re­sis­tance to that,” Brown said. “It may take one or two years, but we’re go­ing to get there. It makes too much sense.”

He also pointed to the need for bet­ter bat­tery technology to store en­ergy.

Re­new­able en­ergy ex­perts have looked to bat­ter­ies that can store so­lar en­ergy gen­er­ated in the af­ter­noon as one so­lu­tion, but the technology is not ready for widescale de­ploy­ment. An­other po­ten­tial so­lu­tion is pumped stor­age, in which wa­ter is pumped up­hill in the af­ter­noon us­ing so­lar en­ergy and then re­leased through hy­dro­elec­tric gen­er­a­tors af­ter the sun sets.

Brown has of­ten faced crit­i­cism that he’s too le­nient with the oil in­dus­try, in­clud­ing from en­vi­ron­men­tal groups push­ing him to cre­ate a mora­to­rium on new oil and gas wells in the state. He re­jected the crit­i­cism and said that Cal­i­for­nia’s ap­proach to cli­mate change re­lies on curb­ing emis­sions from a va­ri­ety of sources, in­clud­ing oil.

Cal­i­for­nia has nearly 54,000 ac­tive wells, some of them close to ur­ban­ized ar­eas in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and the Cen­tral Val­ley, ac­cord­ing to state data.

Cal­i­for­nia ranked sixth among states in crude oil pro­duc­tion in May, the lat­est data avail­able from the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion. The state ranks 15th in nat­u­ral gas pro­duc­tion. Cal­i­for­nia’s pro­duc­tion of crude oil has fallen steadily since the mid-1980s.

Business groups also op­posed the mea­sure amid con­cerns that it would raise the price of en­ergy and, to­gether with Cal­i­for­nia’s other en­vi­ron­men­tal and la­bor pro­tec­tions, make it hard to com­pete with firms in other states.

“If we’re go­ing to have these first-in-the-na­tion laws, we want to see first-in-then­ation ben­e­fits,” said Rob Lap­s­ley, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Business Roundtable.

The mea­sure was writ­ten by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Los An­ge­les Demo­crat who is run­ning for U.S. Se­nate against fel­low Demo­cratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein.

“Today we’re set­ting a marker that will be re­mem­bered by fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” de Leon said.

The com­pan­ion ex­ec­u­tive or­der Brown signed di­rects the state to achieve “car­bon neu­tral­ity” no later than 2045. Af­ter that, he says the state should emit net neg­a­tive green­house gas emis­sions.

The or­der di­rects sev­eral state agen­cies to set tar­gets for ar­ti­fi­cially re­mov­ing car­bon diox­ide from the air through a process known as “se­ques­tra­tion.”

That could in­volve restor­ing forests and wet­lands to use plants to con­sume car­bon diox­ide or new tech­nolo­gies that cap­ture car­bon diox­ide, com­press it and in­ject it into the ground.

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