State officials said the backbone of the transition is a “clean, affordable and reliable grid,” and the policy framework includes a commitment to build no new gas plants. Instead, the state will meet the increased demand for electricity with renewable energy. To do that, California will need to build more wind and solar at a highly expedited rate, quadrupling its current capacity.
To keep the lights on, California will need to double its existing electricity generation capacity. The state narrowly avoided rolling blackouts this year after electricity demand nearly surpassed supply during a heat wave that baked the state for 10 days in September.
Lauren Sanchez, the governor’s climate adviser, acknowledged on a call with reporters that “this plan will indeed be very difficult to achieve because of the scale of the task and the speed with which it needs to be delivered.”
But, she said, “the governor will not take failure as an option, and neither should any of us.”
A more aggressive plan
The state’s powerful air board circulated a preliminary draft of the plan early in the year with the goal of 40% emissions reductions by 2030, but Gov. Newsom asked the agency to be more aggressive.
While the board hashed out the details over the course of months, California passed regulations to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered cars.
And Newsom signed a series of aggressive climate bills into law setting new targets for clean energy and carbon sequestration on natural and working lands, establishing new rules on existing oil wells near neighborhoods and schools and expanding carbon capture and removal.
The latest draft incorporates these new efforts and others on offshore wind, clean fuels and climate-friendly housing construction.
But advocates and environmentalists want the state to move even faster, and have pressed for more aggressive targets.
Ellie Cohen, CEO of policy nonprofit The Climate Center, and UC Berkeley professor Dan Kammen argued in an opinion piece last week for California’s target to be “at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030.”
They also criticized the state for what they said is “gambling on carbon capture and storage, a failed and expensive technology that perpetuates pollution in frontline communities.”
Reached by email on his way back from the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, Kammen said that the state’s latest version still relies too much on these technologies.
‘The harsh grip of petroleum’
In 2006, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, into law, which mandated that the state produce a climate change road map every five years. The air board released the first plan in 2008, and this is its third update.
Board Chair Liane Randolph told reporters that this update “is far and away the most important and the one with the most ambitious targets.”
“We need to take action to reduce the worst impacts of a changing climate,” Randolph said. “And there is only one way to do that: Break forever our dependance on fossil fuels, the harsh grip of petroleum, and move as fast as we can to a clean energy economy. And that’s what this plan does. It delivers a massive reduction of climate-warming pollution.”
The state estimates it would cut air pollution by 71% and save Californians $200 billion each year in health costs due to pollution, while creating 4 million new jobs.
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