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Home / Business / A law alone will not bring California 100 percent green energy

A law alone will not bring California 100 percent green energy

Before Californians use an electron, they like to turn the glass a bit, get a nose. You want a touch of the terroir of these subatomic particles before you pour it into an air conditioner or a telephone. Does it have the stuffy, planet-destroying scent of a greenhouse gas appellation that may have come from burning coal or oil? Or does our electron have the vivid carefree nature of the wind generation, or solar energy?

When Governor Jerry Brown signed bill Senate Bill, now sitting on his desk – it's still an open question, though the bill has passed both houses of the state legislature – California will be nothing but clean by 2045 generated, carbon-neutral electrons use.

These electrons will not be easy to harvest. After about 1

5 years, 30 percent of California's electricity comes from renewable sources such as solar. That is a lot! But not enough. Another quarter comes from hydropower and nuclear power (no greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate change but other environmental problems and nuclear power is decommissioned). And the rest? Natural gas, mostly, plus a bit of coal. Many obstacles – technological, political and financial – do not make it easy to close the last gap. "I think California's ingenuity and creative spirit will create technology to meet our emissions targets," said Senator Kevin de León, co-author of the new bill and one from 2015, setting similar, lower, earlier standards , "That happens when you set those goals …. They allow the market forces to drive the capital to create the technological innovations."

California Energy Commission

The argument of whether 100 percent clean energy is possible has a long tradition. Stanford engineer Mark Jacobson argued in 2015 that it was so … but two years later, a group of other researchers wrote that Jacobson's analysis was critically flawed and Jacobson sued them for $ 10 million. (1945) 1 According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, it is possible to meet 80 percent of America's electricity needs by 2050 – with midwest and coastal winds, solar in the southwest, and hydro in the northwest and southeast and so on. Oh, and as Nathanel Johnson points out in Grist environmentalists and activists have long debated the distinction between "renewable", mainly sun and wind, and "clean," which includes other CO2-neutral ones. but still environmentally hazardous sources of juice like dams and nuclear power.

The deeper problem is that the mere management of the electrons is not enough. Wind, water and sun are more or less intermittent – which means that they do not constantly generate electricity and often fail when people need it. Solar does not work at night (duh) and hydro makes less power in drought years, what: Welcome to the desert of now. To accommodate these geographic and temporal imbalances, utilities need to transfer power from places where they are needed to places where they are needed, and energy for rainy days in a figurative sense. "The two key requirements for a more substantial use of renewable energy in California will be storage and transmission," said Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford.

Offshore wind remains a California challenge Because waters are far enough offshore to mitigate the effects of visual and marine mammals are very deep. The state will probably not build more dams. Geothermal energy is difficult to locate. As battery prices fall, batteries alone would not provide all the memory the state would need. Other storage technologies could fill the void – pumped water, compressed air, flywheels, basically anything that converts electricity into another, easier-to-store format, then converts back when people need it. "Do not be dissuaded from the view that many of us make, that we have the technology and that it should be implemented easily, that's the energy-hungry thing," Reicher says. "I spent three years with Google, and that was the big difference between the world of information technology and the world of energy technology." In IT, projects are measured in months and millions of dollars. In energy, it is decades and billions.

The law would prohibit the state of California from drawing electricity from another country that is not carbon neutral either. Currently, all power plants in California are privately owned or operated by municipal or investor companies. They distribute electricity under the auspices of the California Independent System Operator, a so-called regional transmission operator who is also responsible for balancing, that is, finding out if demand exceeds available power and brings more juice online (or buys) from one of them 37 other Balancing Authorities on the Western Interconnection, which ranges from Canada to Northern Mexico). "We rely on each other when we need them, but it's not a coordinated day-ahead market as it is with an integrated regional market," says Anne Gonzalez, spokeswoman for California ISO.

California's Senate Bill 350 not only called for California's use of renewable energy but also called on the California ISO to test the feasibility of a regional energy market. (David Roberts of Vox has explained what that would mean.) The California ISO found that a regionalized network would create more than 19,400 jobs and save $ 1.5 billion a year. It would also potentially make it easier to sell California, for example, to sell its midday solar surplus on an afternoon in Utah and to buy Wyoming Windstrom when the sun goes down. But California unions are worried about losing those jobs to other states, and this intergovernmental organization has serious governance issues. And if the system does not work? The opponents worry about the return of Brownouts of the Enron era. (It's even harder to manage things – California has also mandated that all new homes include roof solar panels, but the California ISO has no control over these electrons. "Our network has no insight into end-user or utility solar power," Gonzalez says . "

The stakes here are quite high: Hawaii already has a plan to get 100 percent clean energy in place, but California has an overwhelming influence on national politics, both philosophically and politically GDP of over $ 2.7 trillion would make it the fifth largest economy in the world if it were a country, and if the state pushes for cleaner power, other states may be forced to follow it, which would be good – after all, climate change will not stop As the federal government pulls the US out of the Paris climate deal and the austere California gas outfall Californian regulation in California also functions as a lofty target for Washington. "I made a determined decision that the White House inmate was a clear and present threat to our planet and that we needed to accelerate our goals," says de León.

Not coincidentally, the country with the world population. fourth largest economy – Germany – has also tried to drive full-purity energy. It is an effort that " Energiewende " was a qualified success. Energy bills have risen for consumers, but the price of photovoltaic cells has fallen since entering the market in Germany. And strangely, since Germany also decided to shut down its nuclear power plants, it had to buy dirty electrons from hydrocarbons, which paradoxically would increase total greenhouse gas emissions. "The environmental community has promoted Germany as a great success story, and the Wall Street Journal regularly beats it as a failure," says Reicher. "Our answer is somewhere in the middle, tendency positive."

So it could work in California? Even if the 100 percent target is not achieved, an ambitious policy can still bring down a ball. León points out that the energy sector was responsible for 50 percent of California's greenhouse gas emissions. Now it's about 20 percent. Today, traffic is by far the most important factor – no surprise in the country of the highway. Maybe after the state has sorted its grid, it can hop on more bike lanes and high-speed lines.

1 A helpful reader points to updated works by Jacobson and others.

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