Renewable Electricity in California Sets Record

California has reached a new clean energy milestone as it continues to move away from fossil fuels in its decades-long effort to lower air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to new numbers released Thursday by the California Energy Commission, 37% of the state’s energy will come from renewable sources like solar and wind in 2021. This is more than double the 16% that came from these sources in 2012.

When nuclear power and electricity from big dams are added together, 59% of California’s electricity now comes from sources that don’t produce carbon dioxide. The state wants to reach 90 percent by 2035 and 100 percent by 2045.

Gov. Gavin Newsom went to Richmond on Thursday to cheer the news that Moxion Power, a company that was started three years ago to make electric batteries with no emissions to replace diesel generators, will open a new factory on the site of the old Richmond Ford Point Assembly Plant on Harbour Way. This shows that the trend is growing. Moxion employs 250 people.

Before it shut down in the 1950s, the Ford company made Jeeps, armored personal carriers, and other vehicles for the Pacific Theater of World War II. The company said that the new plant will add about 800 new jobs.

“The future happens here first,” said Newsom. “We are the next big thing in America. It is up to us to take charge. And we do. The state of California has more scientists, engineers, experts, Nobel laureates, and patents than any other state.

The tweet below verifies the news:

California has been steadily raising the amount of solar and wind power utilities have to buy over the past 20 years. This is to cut down on smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

But there is a cost to the cleaner power grid: Not as reliable.

When there is a heat wave in California, millions of people turn on their air conditioners, which raises the demand for power. When the sun goes down at night, solar farms shut down, even though demand is still very high.

That’s what happened in California last September when the highest temperature ever recorded was 118 degrees in Calistoga, 116 degrees in Livermore, and 109 degrees in San Jose.

Blackouts were just about avoided, but only after Newsom asked Californians to use less energy between 4 and 9 p.m. and eased air pollution rules to let temporary natural gas-fired “peaker” plants and other generators start up.

State officials have told utilities to put in huge battery systems that will store solar power during sunny days and send it back to the grid at night. This will help make the grid more reliable. In 2019, 250 megawatts of battery storage were in use in California. It now has 5,000 megawatts, which is about the same as 10 power plants that run on natural gas.

Newsom also signed a bill in September to keep PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which is the only one left in the state, open for another five years after it was supposed to close in 2025. This was against the wishes of some campaigners.

The heavy rains that California got this winter filled most of the biggest reservoirs in the state. Hydroelectric power is expected to have a great year because of the water.

Because of these things, state energy officials said this week that they don’t think there will be the kind of tight balance between supply and demand this summer that made blackouts more likely in the past. They said that could change if there was a big fire that damaged transmission lines, but generally, things are better than they have been in the past few years.

Siva Gunda, an engineer who is on the board of the California Energy Commission, said, “The summer looks much better than we thought it would.”

Frank Wolak, an energy economist at Stanford University, said that the state should think about using more nuclear power to meet its climate goals and make sure it always has enough energy. He also said that storing batteries is not easy.

“The investments in batteries are good news,” Wolak said, “but they are very expensive, and you need a lot of them to really make a difference in storing renewable energy for later use.”

Newsom also put out a 20-page document on Thursday that explains the state’s goals and difficulties as it moves toward using only renewable energy.

The report, “Building the Electricity Grid of the Future: California’s Clean Energy Transition Plan,” says that the state has already met many of its early goals for electric cars and renewable energy. But it warns that if we want to have power that is free of carbon by 2045, “we need to build more clean energy, faster.”

Over the next 20 years, the report calls for expanding transmission lines, building offshore wind farms, putting more heat pumps in homes, embracing new technology that lets homes be powered by plugging into electric car batteries, building more battery storage for the grid, and giving people incentives to run dishwashers, dryers, and washing machines when demand is low.

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Newsom said that the state needs to do more to cut red tape so that solar farms, wind farms, and other projects that use green energy can be built faster. Last week, he sent 11 bills to Sacramento that would weaken the California Environmental Quality Act, which is a strong law that forces big projects to do environmental studies.

The law, which was passed 50 years ago, is often used as a reason to sue by neighbors, environmental groups, and labor unions who don’t like a project. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown were among the leaders who tried to make changes but didn’t have much success.

With Newsom’s changes to CEQA, lawsuits would have to be settled within 270 days for both green energy projects and big water projects like building new reservoirs. “We need to construct. He said, “We need to get things done.” “We don’t have much time.”

“We don’t have time to hold hands and talk about the way the world should be,” he said, pointing out that climate change is causing more heat waves, forest fires, and other problems. “We’ve got to go.”

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