Amid US$5.70 per gallon (US$21.58 per liter) average California gasoline prices and higher utility costs, Californians are feeling the impact of supply/demand imbalances in the fossil fuel-based economy. California Governor Gavin Newsom released a statement and wrote a letter to the chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to make sure the state is on track to hit its 2030 climate goals and be carbon-neutral by 2045. CARB will host a meeting this fall to consider adoption of a final draft of the 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan. A visual of California’s long-term goals can be viewed through its climate dashboard.
In June, Newsom signed a state budget meant to expedite clean energy projects and push for the transition away from fossil fuel-based power generation. Newsom also wants to work with the state legislature to put carbon-neutrality into law. “California communities experience the devastating impacts of climate change every day,” said Newsom. “We need to supercharge our efforts to significantly reduce harmful carbon pollution. The state’s draft carbon neutrality road map doesn’t go far enough or fast enough. That’s why I’m pushing state agencies to adopt more aggressive actions, from offshore wind to climate-friendly homes, and to make sure we never build another fossil fuel power plant in California again.”
Highlights In Newsom’s Letter To CARB
- Offshore Wind: Establishing a California Energy Commission planning goal of at least 20 GW of offshore wind in 2045.
- Clean And Healthy Buildings: Creating a goal of 3 million climate-ready and climate-friendly homes by 2030 and 7 million by 2035, supplemented by 6 million heat pumps by 2030, and directing 50% of investments to low-income and disadvantaged communities.
- Moving Away From Fossil Fuels: Directing state agencies to plan for an energy transition to meet our long-term energy goals that avoids the need for new natural gas plants, while ensuring reliability. Establishing a 20% clean fuels target for the aviation sector. The Governor also requested that CARB evaluate a more stringent Low-Carbon Fuel Standard and accelerate refinery transitions to clean fuels production.
- Methane: Forming a task force to identify and address methane leaks from oil infrastructure near communities, recognizing the threats these leaks can pose to community health and safety.
- Carbon Removal: Setting a 20 million metric tonne (MMT)-carbon removal target for 2030 and 100-MMT carbon removal target for 2045, emphasizing the role of natural and working lands and the need for safe and equitably engineered carbon removal.
- Increasing Climate Ambition: Partnering with the state legislature to make carbon neutrality state law and accelerate progress toward California’s 2030 target, bring new ambition to the state’s clean energy goals, develop policy to support sequestration from natural and working lands while incorporating industrial carbon capture in carbon neutrality efforts, and finalize investments under the state’s US$53.9 billion Climate Commitment.
Building Upon Past Progress
According to the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), 2004 was the state’s peak emissions year. CalEPA reported that emissions fell by 79.9 million tons (72.5 million tonnes) between 2004 and 2019, which is the equivalent of taking 15.4 million cars off the road for one year. For context, there are about 14.2 million passenger cars registered in California.
According to California’s climate dashboard, 59% of California’s electric grid is fueled by carbon-free sources. California’s 2030 goal states that California’s electricity must come from 60% carbon-free sources. Given it’s basically there already, this goal isn’t impressive. However, there is still much work to be done if California wants to reach a 100% renewable grid by 2045.
CalEPA reported a 51% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from electric power between 2008 and 2019, most notably thanks to solar power increasing by 16-fold between 2011 and 2019. CalEPA also reported that California’s zero-emissions vehicle sales surpassed 1.14 million as of Q1 2022, which is more than the next 10 states combined.
Aside from the environmental benefits of switching to low-carbon electricity and transportation, Californians are also saving on energy costs thanks to better efficiency standards. CalEPA reported that appliance and building improvements have led to consumer savings of US$100 billion. Furthermore, US$1.2 billion to US$1.8 billion in avoided health impacts are expected to be saved through 2030 thanks to climate reduction efforts.
The clean energy industry has grown to become a major employer in California. CalEPA estimates that the clean energy industry consists of more than half a million jobs, employing five times the number of fossil fuel jobs. The estimate means that around 3% of Californians work in the clean energy industry.