Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

California is powering toward its climate goals. But it only gets harder from here.

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Sammy Roth Dec. 26, 2017  read the full Desert Sun article here

…The Golden State gets nearly half its electricity from climate-friendly sources, including solar, wind, hydro and nuclear. Carbon emissions keep inching downward, putting the state on track to reduce planet-warming pollution to 1990 levels by 2020, as mandated by state law.

Some lawmakers think it’s time for more ambitious goals. State Senate leader Kevin de León introduced a bill last year that would have required the state to get 100 percent of is electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2045 — a big jump from current requirements.

That bill wasn’t passed — at least not yet — but some utilities seem to have gotten the message. Investor-owned Southern California Edison recently released a plan for California to get 80 percent of its electricity from climate-friendly sources by 2030

…But for all the progress California has made cleaning up its electricity, slashing carbon emissions is only going to get harder from here.

Just 19 percent of planet-warming emissions tracked by the state came from electricity in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the California Air Resources Board. Twenty-three percent came from industrial facilities like oil refineries and cement plants, with smaller contributions from agriculture, gas heating systems at homes and businesses, and chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

The biggest source of climate pollution was transportation. Thirty-nine percent of California’s emissions came from cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles in 2015….

…a dramatic shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles over the next few decades will be a huge lift for California. One bright spot is that the cost of lithium-ion car batteries continues to drop, and automakers are offering ever-cheaper electric vehicles.

…Continuing to ramp up clean electricity is also expected to get harder. The rapidly falling costs of solar and wind have led to stunning growth of those technologies, but the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Experts say California will need new strategies to get to 50 percent clean electricity, and ultimately 100 percent….

…Options for scaling up renewable energy include lithium-ion battery storage, which like solar and wind is getting cheaper, as well as innovative energy management strategies, like encouraging people to use energy at different times of day through restructured electricity rates or incentive payments.

Good old energy efficiency is probably the cheapest option. California’s per-capita electricity consumption has stayed flat since the mid-1970s, and a 2015 law calls for the state to double its energy-efficiency savings by 2030. That doubling will require more efficient buildings and appliances, as well as savings by industry and agriculture, according to the California Energy Commission.

….cities are looking to ditch their electric utilities and form “community choice aggregators,” in which local officials decide where to buy energy. The desire for cleaner energy is often a key motivation. By some estimates, investor-owned utilities like Edison could lose as much as 80 percent of their customer bases to community choice programs over the next decade. That’s worrying for the utility industry, but exciting for many clean energy advocates….

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