California breaks record for renewable electricity

California has hit a new milestone in clean energy, as the state continues to move away from fossil fuels in its decades-long effort to continue to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2021, 37% of the state’s electricity was generated by renewable sources like solar and wind — up from 34% the year before, and double the 16% total in 2012, according to new numbers released Thursday by the California Energy Commission.

More broadly, when nuclear power and hydroelectricity from large dams are included, 59% of California’s electricity now comes from carbon-free sources. The state has a goal of 90% by 2035 and 100% by 2045.

Highlighting the trend, Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared in Richmond on Thursday to cheer the announcement that Moxion Power, a company founded three years ago which now has 250 employees working to build zero-emission electric batteries to replace diesel generators, will open a new manufacturing facility at the site of the former Richmond Ford Point Assembly Plant on Harbour Way.

During World War II, the plant built Jeeps, armored personal carriers and other vehicles for the Pacific Theater before closing in the 1950s. The new facory will create about 800 new jobs, the company said.

“The future happens here first,” Newsom said. “We are America’s coming attraction. It is our responsibility to lead. And we do. No other state has more scientists, engineers, more researchers, more Nobel laureates, more patents emanating out of one state than the state of California.”

Over the past 20 years, California has been steadily increasing the amount of solar and wind power it requires utilities to purchase to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

But the greener power grid has come at a cost: Less reliability.

During severe heat waves, millions of Californians turn on their air conditioners, spiking demand for electricity. At night when the sun begins to set, solar farms go off line, even as demand remains sky high.

That’s what happened last September, when all-time heat records tumbled across California, including 118 degrees in Calistoga, and the day before 116 in Livermore and 109 in San Jose.

Blackouts were narrowly averted, but only after Newsom urged Californians to curb electricity use between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., and relaxed air pollution rules to allow temporary natural gas-fired “peaker” plants and other generators to fire up.

To help improve reliability, state regulators have ordered utilities to put in place huge battery systems to store solar power on sunny days, then let it out on the grid at night. In 2019, California had 250 megawatts of battery storage. It has 5,000 megawatts now — roughly the same as 10 natural-gas fired power plants.

Newsom also signed a bill in September, over the objections of some activists, to keep PG&E’s Diablo Canyon, the state’s only nuclear power plant, open for another five years after its 2025 planned closure date.

Meanwhile, the drenching storms that California received this winter filled most of the state’s largest reservoirs. The water is expected to deliver a banner year for hydroelectric power.

Those factors caused state energy …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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