California Power Policy Likely To Become National Model
As the Trump administration continued to prop up coal despite its growing failure in the marketplace, and to roll back efficiency standards for vehicles, California has enacted a policy that is far more likely to become the national model. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law Monday that holds California to the emission reductions in the Paris Climate Accord, and to producing 100 percent of the state’s power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2045. It also includes incremental goals, requiring 50 percent of power from renewable resources by 2026 and 60 percent by 2030. Due to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, the United States is the only nation on Earth that is not a signatory. California already leads the nation in energy generated from renewable sources, including geothermal, wind, solar and hydroelectric. According to the California Energy Commission, about half of the state’s power is produced by natural gas plants — more than 42,000 megawatts. But California policy is that natural gas, which produces less than half and as little as a quarter as much carbon dioxide as coal, is a “bridge” fuel to renewables. The state produces more than 13,000 megawatts in hydro power, nearly 11,000 megawatts from solar generation, and 5,600 megawatts in wind power. The state has a single coal plant that produces about 55 megawatts, and a single nuclear plant that produces about 2,500 megawatts. Power is more expensive in California than in many other states, due partly to reliance on renewables and partly to growing demand. But the price of renewables has been falling relatively to other fuels, and will continue to do so as the state presses its deployment. California’s decision is no mere gesture in defiance of federal policy. On its own, California would have the world’s eighth largest economy. And because it imports power from nearby Western states, its policy inevitably will affect energy policy throughout the West. And, nationally, the California decision will drive down renewable power costs. That, coupled with the indisputable environmental benefits, will affect state policies across the nation. California has reminded the nation that the American way is to move forward rather than to stand still or regress. Pennsylvania and other states should follow that lead.