California sets goal to double clean energy by 2030

Biogas, methane collected from dairy farms, is piped into a cleaning facility at the Calgren facility in Pixley, California, U.S., October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

California on Thursday adopted a new emissions target for its electric sector that would double the state’s clean energy capacity over the next decade and close the door to the development of new natural gas plants. Still, green groups said the goal was not aggressive enough.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 46 million metric tons by 2030, 56% below 1990 levels. The goal outpaces the state’s overall goal of slashing emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

California electricity providers will need to develop nearly 25 gigawatts of renewable energy and battery storage to achieve the goal. That’s almost double the amount the state has currently, CPUC Commissioner Liane Randolph said in a statement. The agency anticipates 8,900 MW of energy storage will be included in that total, or about eight times more than existed in the entire United States at the end of 2018.

Environmental groups had pressed for a more aggressive target of 30 MMT that would get the state closer to its 2045 goal of sourcing electricity exclusively from carbon-free sources. They favor a rapid shift away from fossil fuels to fight global climate change.

“We must go beyond business as usual, and act with the urgency that is necessary to tackle the climate crisis adequately,” Sierra Club Campaign Representative Luis Amezcua said in a statement.

In its order, the PUC said the 46 MMT target would become harder for utilities to meet as the move to electrify vehicles and buildings causes demand to spike.

Utilities and power plant owners, including Calpine Corp, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric, favored the 46 MMT target.

In a compromise, the PUC directed utilities to submit plans for meeting a backup goal of 38 MMT. Once it receives those plans, the agency will decide whether it favors the deeper target.

In a win for green groups, the CPUC closed a loophole that would allow the development of new natural gas plants if paired with energy storage. Expansion of existing natural gas plants is allowed if paired with energy storage, however.

New gas plants are allowed if they use biomethane, which comes from manure, landfills, or wastewater, and is interchangeable with gas drilled out of the ground. It cuts greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring significant volumes of methane that would have been produced anyway, never reach the atmosphere.


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