California’s Ambitious Clean Energy Goals

The Golden State is setting renewable energy’s gold standard: California governor Jerry Brown’s clean energy goals will create billions in savings and slash millions in carbon dioxide emissions.

That’s the major takeaway from Berkeley-based Strategen Consulting’s exhaustive report Impact Analysis: Governor Brown’s 2030 Energy Goals (PDF) — although one doesn’t really need consultants to arrive at the bigger picture. Right now, California’s largest export happens to be airplanes, while its richest corporation, by exports, is the mammoth oil company Chevron. So it’s little surprise that throwing major political and legislative support at the cleantech industry will dramatically reverse those fossilized fortunes, and downsize California’s prodigious emissions, while creating an international standard that any country can follow.

This is not to say that Strategen’s hard numbers, for what they are worth, are not welcome.

“This analysis describes in clear, quantitative terms how Governor Brown’s vision will translate to an enormous benefit in so many areas critical to public health, economic stability, energy security and quality of life,” said Strategen founder Janice Lin in a statement. “We already have the advanced technologies and technical capabilities, which when combined with legislative and regulatory support and backed by forward-thinking investors, will propel California to a global leadership position in energy sustainability and independence.”

So let’s get quantitative. Starting in 2030, Strategen found that Brown’s inaugural cleantech ambition will annually create over $50 billion in annual savings, unplug over 100 millions of CO2, save over 700 lives, and result in over 1 million of what the report calls “job-years.” In the process, this inevitable renewable energy transformation, spearheaded by solar and wind, will insulate California against the also inevitable shocks of the easily manipulated fossil fuel market, which is almost arbitrarily yanked upwards and downwards with every unnecessary subsidization and expensive war.

Brown’s plan will accelerate his state’s already advanced efforts at decarbonization: California is “already on track to generate 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020,” Strategen’s report reminded. Ratcheting that up to 50 percent by 2030 guarantees greater wind and solar power installations for another decade, as well as a model of success that will put pressure not just on California’s fellow American states but countries across the world to get their dirty acts together.

Until recently, these decarbonization efforts have existed without measurably major policy support, but those days are coming to an end. As California suffers a megadrought worse than any on public record, while its local geniuses like Elon Musk create off-the-shelf decarbonization alternatives like Tesla Energy’s Powerwall, the Golden State has predictably turned its attention to surviving well into the next century. Without Brown’s plan, and probably a subsequent one with even more green ambition, it has no hope.

“These benefits are sufficiently compelling that state policymakers should now develop a cost-optimized, long-term strategy to ensure success and enable the state to realize them,” Strategen concluded.

This article appeared at Solar Energy