California Utility Charts a Path to a Future With Clean Energy For the Golden State

(3BL Media/Justmeans) California is the most populous state in the nation, with almost 40 million residents and an economy ranking number six in the world. The Golden State also has led the way in taking care of the environment. The state has a renewables portfolio standard of 33 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2030. An executive order in 2005 established a target reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. A bill in 2006 created an economy-wide cap-and-trade program.

The utility company Southern California Edison envisions a future where there are over 7 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the state’s freeways and streets, and most electricity comes from solar and wind in 2030. The air will be cleaner than it has been in over a decade. As the whitepaper written by the company acknowledges, it is a California not yet realized, but SCE is working to make that scenario a reality.

SCE calls its vision the Clean Power and Electrification Pathway, and it has three major economic areas: electricity, transportation and buildings. It calls for 80 percent carbon-free energy through large-scale resources and the use of distributed solar, which would lower GHG emissions from 84 to 28 million metric tons (MMT)/year. Reaching the 80 percent carbon-free energy goal can occur with a combination of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and large hydroelectric generators. That requires developing up to 30 gigawatts (GW) of additional renewable capacity.

Under the Pathway, electrification of the transportation sector would be accelerated, including putting at least seven million light-duty passenger vehicles on California’s roads. California’s electricity presently accounts for only 19 percent of the state’s GHG emissions. By contrast, the transportation sector and fossil fuels in space and water heaters produce three times as many GHG emissions and comprise 80 percent of the state’s air pollution. By electrifying the state’s transportation sector, local air quality will be improved as well as reducing the state’s GHG emissions.

Electrifying the state’s transportation sector will require more investment in charging infrastructure. The state’s investor-owned and public utilities have already started charging infrastructure pilots, but they are not enough to meet a major scale-up of EV adoption. “Early deployments must coincide with the development of adequate charging infrastructure to support this critical clean-transportation opportunity,” the whitepaper states.

The Pathway would also include increasing the electrification of buildings by electrifying almost one-third of residential and commercial space and water heaters. Space and water heating accounts for over two-thirds of total residential and commercial building GHG emissions. By electrifying almost one-third of residential and commercial space and water heaters, along with increased energy efficiency and strong building codes and standards, GHG emissions from buildings could be reduced from 49 to 37 MMT/year, or 7 percent of the 2030 goal.

SCE’s Pathway presents a way for California to have a future filled with clean energy. As Pedro Pizarro, Edison International president and CEO, said, “We have charted a path to help California get to that clean energy future and Edison is leading the way.”

A cleaner energy future for California would influence the U.S. for as the old adage states, “As California goes, so goes the nation.”

Photo: Southern California Edison