Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

california_renewable

Electric energy generating wind turbines are seen on a wind farm in the San Gorgonio Pass area on Earth Day, April 22, 2016, near Palm Springs, California. San Gorgonio Pass is one of the largest wind farm areas in the United States. (Photo: David McNew/AFP via Getty Images)

California Briefly Runs on 97% Renewable Energy—Reveals a Future in Which Oil and Gas Dictators Can Be Defunded

A world of 100% green energy and electric cars is not only a healthier and more comfortable world, it is a world where oil and gas dictators like Vladimir Putin are defunded.

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

California’s energy mix was powered 97% by renewable energy on Sunday, April 3 at at 3:39 p.m., the highest contribution of renewables to the state’s grid on record, according to David Knowles at Yahoo News.

Based on the performance of these energy sectors in 2019 and 2020, California now gets about 60% of its electricity from low-carbon, non-fossil fuel sources.

Although the milestone lasted only for a brief time, it points to a future in which California runs on 100% wind, solar, hydro and batteries, a future that will certainly arrive even faster than the state plans. As it is, California is ahead of its green energy goals.

The implication of these plans is that California intends to phase out methane gas as a source of power. The state is also trying to electrify transportation. A world of 100% green energy and electric cars is not only a healthier and more comfortable world, it is a world where oil and gas dictators like Vladimir Putin are defunded.

Based on the performance of these energy sectors in 2019 and 2020, California now gets about 60% of its electricity from low-carbon, non-fossil fuel sources.

Over a third of the state’s electricity is generated by wind and solar, and between 14% and 17% by large hydro, depending on how severe the droughts are. Some 10 percent comes from nuclear plants.

The Golden State has also made enormous progress in garnering more battery power for back-up. By the beginning of this year it had 2.1 gigawatts in battery capacity, an 8-fold increase over the amount available in late 2019. Christian Roselund at PV Magazine points out that if we look at green energy projects in the pipeline, 533 of them are for batteries, aiming for 135 gigawatts. There are 282 projects that involve solar energy, aiming for 76 gigawatts. So battery generation is outstripping solar. Batteries are also key to providing electricity at night or when the wind falls off. Since they can scale up and down quickly, they are highly compatible with renewables.

A bill has been introduced in the California legislature by Henry Stern (D-LA) that would require the state to put in 6 new gigawatts of renewable energy annually, beginning in 2025. Sammy Roth reports at the LA Times that this is the pace necessary if the state is to get to 100% renewables by 2045. The state has only been averaging 1.5 new gigawatts of renewables annually for the past decade, so this measure, if adopted, would up Sacramento’s game substantially.

Roth says there are 25 climate bills looking to pass in the state legislature. Some want to help fossil fuel workers transition to other jobs. Others want to help bury electrical wires, which cause wildfires or are knocked out by wildires when above ground. Others back the building of necessary new, high-desity transmission wires. Yet others aim to push utilities to develop geothermal, battery and hydrogen power to provide baseline energy generation when intermittent renewables fall off.

Other bills aim to cut out the permitting and paperwork burden for installing solar panels, or to provide ways for lower-income families to get them.

If anyone is listening, what we really need is national financial instruments allowing families to pay off solar panels over time. Few people just walk into a dealership and plunk down cash for a new car, but mostly consumers are expected to do that with solar installations for their homes. The big difference is that whereas a car loses 50% of its value when you drive it off the lot, solar panels will go on saving people loads of money on their electrical bills for 25 years and will also fuel their electric cars.


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Brazil Votes Live: Lula Wins the First Round Over Far-Right Bolsonaro; Run-Off Oct. 30

Lula took the lead as more rural votes counted but failed to reach 50%

Common Dreams staff ·


'Enough is Enough': Hundreds of Thousands March Across the UK

'As wages fall while profits soar, our message is clear... We are here to win.'

Common Dreams staff ·


California Gov. Newsom Proposes Windfall Profits Tax on Big Oil

Calls for windfall profits taxes have increased globally in recent weeks

Common Dreams staff ·


'Incredible': Omar and Khanna Staffers Join Levin's Office in Unionizing

"It is long past time the United States Congress became a unionized workplace, and that includes my own staff," said Rep. Ilhan Omar. "I am proud of all the people on my team who have played a leading role in the staff unionization effort. Solidarity forever."

Jessica Corbett ·


Destructive Hurricanes Fuel Calls for Biden to Declare Climate Emergency

"Mother Nature is not waiting for the president or Congress to declare a climate emergency. She's showing us in real-time here in the United States—with wildfires, floods, heatwaves, hurricanes, and drought."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo