The year 2023 is proving to be a turning point in the world of energy, marked by both California’s ambitious green goals and the remarkable ascent of solar energy throughout the United States. In this article, we will explore two interconnected stories that share a common theme: the growing influence of solar power in shaping a more sustainable future.
California’s Pursuit of Clean Energy
California, a pioneer in environmental initiatives, is taking another step forward with the “Powering Up Californians Act.” Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed this groundbreaking legislation, authored by State Senator Josh Becker (D-13), with the aim of removing a significant barrier to California’s sustainable future.
California’s Clean Energy Journey
California has a rich history in the energy sector, dating back to 1879 when the nation’s first central power plant began serving a handful of residents in San Francisco. Over the years, California’s electrical grid has expanded, providing universal electricity access to millions. Today, approximately 60 percent of the state’s electricity comes from carbon-free sources, positioning California to meet its ambitious goal of sourcing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable and zero-carbon energy by 2045.
However, there are obstacles on this path to clean energy. Delays in electrifying buildings and creating charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) have hindered progress. Affordable housing units remain vacant, and electric heavy-duty vehicles, which could replace diesel pollution, are sitting idle due to delays in energization.
The Powering Up Californians Act (SB-410)
SB-410 addresses these challenges with a set of key provisions:
- It establishes a state policy for utilities to upgrade the grid in alignment with decarbonization and air quality standards and deadlines.
- It mandates the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to establish target energization timelines and hold utilities accountable for compliance.
- It emphasizes the training and hiring of a workforce necessary to electrify the transportation and building sectors.
- It ensures that utilities’ annual grid planning and investment align with decarbonization and air quality objectives.
- It permits utilities to make essential investments in a timely manner, consistent with state laws and regulations, while allowing for cost recovery.
SB-410 has received broad support from environmental, public health, equity, industry, and labor organizations, reflecting a consensus on the importance of this legislation. It passed the California State Assembly with a resounding bipartisan vote of 70 to 1.
Solar’s Soaring Ascendancy
While California is taking strides towards a greener future, the entire United States is experiencing a solar revolution of its own. Recent data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the SUN DAY Campaign reveals that solar and wind energy have outpaced all other energy sources in the first two-thirds of 2023.
Solar, in particular, stands out as a leader, contributing 8,980 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity, representing 40.5% of the total. This marks a remarkable 35.9% increase in solar capacity additions compared to the same period in the previous year.
A Bright Future for Solar
Projections indicate that solar’s growth is far from over. FERC reports that “high probability” additions of solar energy between September 2023 and August 2026 will total a staggering 83,878 MW, nearly four times more than the projected additions for wind (21,453 MW) and over 20 times higher than those projected for natural gas (4,037 MW).
The Intersection of California’s Goals and America’s Solar Surge
The stories of California’s commitment to clean energy and the surge of solar power across the United States are intrinsically connected. California, with its pioneering legislation and ambitious goals, exemplifies the state-level efforts that contribute to the national shift toward clean, renewable energy sources. As solar power continues to dominate the energy landscape, it is not just a state initiative but a nationwide phenomenon, lighting the path to a more sustainable future for all.
The golden state and the rising sun of solar energy together are powering a cleaner and brighter tomorrow.