Californians want reliable energy. They want the lights to work when they hit the switch. They want the car to start when they turn the ignition. But Californians also want to protect the environment and create a greener world. While these two issues may seem mutually exclusive, the energy industry is working to make both a reality.
In 2003, more than 20% of California’s power came from coal, and less than 2% from wind and solar resources. In 2006, California took a bold step by calling for an increase in renewable energy sources. The state later moved to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the use of coal power. Since that time, the state has moved its renewable energy goals to 33% by 2020, and to 60% by 2030. California has also called for 100% zero-carbon power by 2045.
While California passed these reforms, it’s the energy industry that adapted to meet the state’s changing needs. Over the past 15 years, California’s coal-fired power plants were either retired or converted to more environmentally friendly fuel sources, such as wood waste. This push has reduced the state’s dependence on coal by more than 80%. In fact, California coal plants are virtually nonexistent, and imported coal power will be eliminated entirely by 2027.
To ensure a reliable grid, California has transitioned from coal power to renewable energy, which accounts for nearly one-third of all of the state’s electricity. Energy companies invested heavily in wind and solar projects, and as a result, almost a quarter of California’s energy needs comes from those sources.
To address the intermittency of wind and solar power, the energy industry turned to battery storage. Although the technology is still developing, California is the industry leader with more than double the battery storage than any other state.
While technological advancements to renewable and storage solutions continue, some traditional forms of energy production are needed. However, California energy companies are implementing the best available control technology to capture harmful emissions and reduce pollution. Companies are also working with biofuels, fuel cells, and other technologies to continue striving toward a carbon-neutral world.
Finally, the energy industry is pushing for conservation measures to reduce waste and the overall carbon footprint. For example, the energy industry is campaigning for electric cars to be charged when there is excess energy available, rather than during peak times. Other efforts have made our cars and homes more energy efficient. Californians use roughly the same amount of power now as they did 15 years ago.
It is through these steps that California has already reached its goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels. California continues to do our part in moving toward a cleaner future. Now it’s time for other states and, more importantly, other countries to do the same. California continues to receive gas and oil from foreign countries that are doing little or nothing for climate change.
For example, one of the largest exporters of oil to California is Saudi Arabia, where there are very few pollution restrictions, resulting in the Saudi Arabian cities of Jeddah and Riyad being named as two of the most polluted places in the world. Since 1990, overall greenhouse gas emissions have more than tripled in the country.
California cannot continue to lead the world toward a cleaner future and then proceed to reward bad actors. The rest of the world needs to follow suit.