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California Targets 100% Clean Energy by 2045

In 2020, Californians witnessed the impacts of climate change as never before. The state experienced its hottest August on record — the month ranked third hottest across the United States. The 2020 wildfire season was the largest in history, burning more than 4 million acres and shattering the previous record set in 2018.

Without drastic mitigation measures, climate change-related events will continue to become more frequent, catastrophic, costly and tragic. The impacts are most often borne by the state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.

Figure 1: Map of California

Moving to a clean electric grid is a foundational step that will unlock and support economy wide opportunities to achieve carbon neutrality and address the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

California has long led the nation and the world in setting ambitious renewable energy and climate policies, working toward a clean economy that is healthier and more just.

The state has already made significant progress toward clean electricity. Carbon emissions from generating electricity have dropped 43 percent since 1990. In 2019, 63% of California’s electricity retail sales came from non-fossil fuel sources - renewables like solar, hydroelectric and nuclear. The Senate Bill 100 takes this mission a grand step forward.

Senate Bill 100 The Climate Imperative Officially titled “The 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018,”

Sets a 2045 goal of powering all retail electricity sold in California and state agency electricity needs with renewable and zero-carbon resources — those such as solar and wind energy that do not emit climate-altering greenhouse gases.

Updates the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard to ensure that by 2030 at least 60 percent of California’s electricity is renewable.

Requires the Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission and Air Resources Board to use programs under existing laws to achieve 100 percent clean electricity and issue a joint policy report on SB 100 by 2021 and every four years thereafter.

Decarbonizing the electric grid is imperative to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality. The Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) has been a primary driver for increasing clean electricity generation, requiring the state’s electric utilities to make renewable energy sources like solar and wind an ever-greater percentage of their power base.

As California enters a new climate reality and moves toward a majority renewable grid, the state’s planning processes likewise need to evolve to meet the needs of all Californians who depend on safe, affordable, and reliable electricity every day.

Figure 2: Solar panels in the desert

Integrating 100 percent renewable and zero-carbon electricity effectively, and achieving carbon neutrality in the state by 2045 will require rigorous analysis of implementation considerations, as well as coordinated planning across state agencies and joint forces. While there remains work to do, achieving 100% clean electricity is a core pillar in the transition to a clean energy economy enjoyed by all Californians.

California may be only one piece of the climate solution. But as the fifth largest economy in the world, the state has an outsized role in demonstrating to other states and countries that a clean energy future is not only possible, but a must to the well-being of its residents and the economy.

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