A look at Cal­i­for­nia’s plan to get car­bon-free elec­tric­ity

Ripon Bulletin - - Local/state -

SACRA­MENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed leg­is­la­tion putting Cal­i­for­nia on a path to­ward get­ting all its elec­tric­ity from car­bon-free sources. Elec­tric­ity is re­spon­si­ble for 16 per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia’s green­house gas emis­sions.

HOW WE GOT HERE

For more than a decade Cal­i­for­nia has adopted am­bi­tious laws and reg­u­la­tions to con­front cli­mate change. The poli­cies — in­clud­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cle in­cen­tives, a “cap and trade” pro­gram to put a price on car­bon emis­sions, and re­new­able en­ergy man­dates — have helped the state re­duce emis­sions to the same level as 1990.

Cal­i­for­nia’s “re­new­able port­fo­lio stan­dard” re­quires util­i­ties to meet tar­gets en­ergy that must come from so­lar, wind, geother­mal, small hy­dro­elec­tric dams and other spe­cific types of re­new­able en­ergy. Be­fore Mon­day, the tar­get was 50 per­cent by 2030.

A NEW GOAL

The leg­is­la­tion Brown signed has two parts.

The first ac­cel­er­ates the re­new­able port­fo­lio stan­dard’s 50 per­cent tar­get by four years to 2026 and sets a new tar­get of 60 per­cent in 2030. That’s a man­date that util­i­ties must fol­low or face fines.

The sec­ond part de­clares that the state’s pol­icy is to work to­ward elim­i­nat­ing fos­sil fu­els from the elec­tric grid and all agen­cies should make de­ci­sions with that goal in mind. It is more of a goal than a man­date. Un­like the re­new­able port­fo­lio stan­dard, there are no fines or penal­ties for util­i­ties. It also is less re­stric­tive on technology, al­low­ing any car­bon-free re­sources to qual­ify in­clud­ing large hy­dro­elec­tric dams and nu­clear power.

HOW TO DO IT

Cal­i­for­nia util­i­ties al­ready get about a third of their en­ergy from re­new­ables, ac­cord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia En­ergy Com­mis­sion. The bulk of that is so­lar en­ergy.

Cal­i­for­nia util­i­ties are strug­gling to in­te­grate the abun­dant so­lar en­ergy now pro­duced. At peak times, they’re forced to shut down re­new­ables or off­load en­ergy to other states be­cause there’s not enough lo­cal de­mand.

Elim­i­nat­ing fos­sil fu­els from the grid will re­quire new stor­age technology that can har­ness wind and so­lar when it’s abun­dant for use when it’s not. That may in­clude bat­ter­ies and large- scale pumped stor­age, in which ex­cess so­lar en­ergy is used to pump wa­ter up­hill. The wa­ter is re­leased and flows through hy­dro­elec­tric gen­er­a­tors.

Brown is push­ing for re­gional man­age­ment of the western grid to bet­ter share re­new­ables, but he was un­able to con­vince law­mak­ers to give up the con­trol that the gover­nor and Leg­is­la­ture now have to ap­point lead­ers of the state’s pri­mary grid oper­a­tor.

CAR­BON NEU­TRAL

Brown also signed an or­der that seeks to re­move car­bon from the air.

It di­rects the state to achieve “car­bon neu­tral­ity” by 2045 at the lat­est, and af­ter that to be­gin to re­duce the state’s net car­bon emis­sions.

There are sev­eral ways to make that hap­pen. The state is look­ing at nat­u­ral car­bon “se­ques­tra­tion” by im­prov­ing wet­lands, mead­ows and forests. It also could in­volve new tech­nolo­gies such as car­bon cap­ture se­ques­tra­tion, in which car­bon emis­sions are cap­tured at their source and fed un­der­ground.

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