November 3, 2015 | No comments yet
On a national scale, cheap and dirty fossil fuels are the primary sources of the United States’ electricity production. Composing nearly 40% of the 2013 grid mix, coal’s presence in the national energy lineup has a history that dates back before the industrial revolution. While U.S. coal-fired power plants are retiring at an increasing rate, natural gas consumption is taking its place as fracking methods have lowered the cost of procurement. Natural gas may have a lower carbon footprint than coal, but its emerging presence may prolong the pursuit of renewable portfolio standards. As the price of solar and wind become increasingly cost effective, it is important for decision makers to consider the long-term implications of a fossil fuel based electricity grid mix. In a volatile energy market, strong leadership and aggressive action is necessary in order to move toward a resilient and sustainable energy future. In wake of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, California led by example on October 7th with the signing of Senate Bill 350. Governor Jerry Brown took a big step for climate action, further solidifying California’s position as a global flagship for environmental health and economic development. With insurmountable evidence revealing the global effects of anthropogenic induced climate change, the question left unanswered is, just what do we do about it?
“What has been the source of our prosperity, now become the source of our ultimate destruction if we don’t get off [fossil fuels].” – Governor Jerry Brown
Although California’s energy grid mix is primarily composed of natural gas, 29% of the total net generation power mix in 2013 was from hydropower and other renewable resources like wind and solar. Senate Bill 350 increases the renewable energy portfolio standard for public utilities to 50% by 2030 and accelerates energy efficiency targets within existing infrastructure. Rising to the seventh largest economy in the world comes with great responsibility, and political leadership is taking advantage of California’s economic and geographic positioning. Not only does the passing of this bill set a direction for technological development, but also provides new job opportunities in impoverished areas with unemployment rates – expanding market opportunities while distributing benefits equally to all communities.
This is big news for companies and organizations with a focus in developing a renewable energy future. Organizations across the nation use political action as an indicator to determine where industry will move, how markets will develop, and what action to take to meet the needs of growing communities. While it is often difficult to mobilize political will, the passing of SB 350 put California on track to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources. As a state, California is demonstrating that one of the greatest global economies can reduce greenhouse gases while generating growth in jobs and manufacturing.
The goals have been set, and now it is up to innovative companies and communities to pave the road to a healthy and resilient economy. The ball is in the hands of innovators and renewable energy developers, who now have to put policy into action. Subsidies and incentives aside, solar and wind will continue to expand as political pioneers take responsibility for creating a robust and adaptable energy mix. Our world in 2030 is going to look much different than it does today, with California on the frontline of furthering a sustainable energy future.
About the Author: Brandon Kaysen is a research intern at Wiser Capital and student at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. His pursuit of energy innovation and corporate environmental management has helped him establish a deep understanding of the built environment and sustainable technological advancement.