Report: Clean Power Increases, Fossil Fuels Decline in California

solar panels in front of a desert mountain in California

(Credit: California Energy Commission)

by | Aug 25, 2023

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solar panels in front of a desert mountain in California

(Credit: California Energy Commission)

California Energy Commission’s total System Electric Generation report reveals massive increases in solar and wind power generation, decreased natural gas generation, and a nearly complete phase-out of coal in the state’s power mix.

Of all renewable energy sources, solar saw the greatest increase in electricity generation for California in the last decade. Since 2012, solar generation in the state has increased nearly twentyfold, from 2,609 gigawatt hours to 48,950 gigawatt hours. Rooftop solar also increased by 10 times, generating 24,309 GWh of clean power in 2022. Wind-generated energy increased by 63% since 2012 as well.

The report also included low numbers for fossil fuel-generated energy. Oil accounted for a mere 0.03% of in-state electric generation and coal accounted for only 0.13% in 2022. Natural gas remains the most relevant fossil fuel contributor in the state, providing about 47% of in-state generation.

According to the Renewables Portfolio Standard, which tracks the power mix of retail sales in the state, more than 37% of the state’s electricity was derived from renewable sources like solar and wind in 2021. Including other zero-carbon energy sources in the state, such as hydroelectric and nuclear power, about 59% of California’s retail electricity sales came from non-fossil fuel sources.

“This latest report card showing how solar energy boomed as natural gas-powered electricity experienced a steady 20 percent decline over the last decade is encouraging,” said California Energy Commission Vice Chair Siva Gunda. “Even as climate impacts become increasingly severe, California remains committed to transitioning away from polluting fossil fuels and delivering on the promise to build a future power grid that is clean, reliable, and affordable.”

Legislation Supports Clean Energy Grid Growth and Climate Resilience

California has implemented considerable legislation toward creating a clean energy-powered grid as the state is continuously hit by numerous, climate-caused weather impacts, including drought, wildfire, and heat waves. State energy forecasters expect the erratic and intense weather to continue, which will result in a tight energy supply until more renewable energy production is made available.

Senate Bill 100 requires 100% of California’s electric retail sales to be supplied by renewable and zero-carbon energy sources by 2045, and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last year to establish interim targets of 90% clean electricity by 2035 and 95% by 2040. Newsom also signed in the Strategic Reliability Reserve, which serves as reinforcement against grid emergencies.

The California Public Utilities Commission continues to lead efforts to develop long-duration energy storage and offshore wind energy projects, also ordering 18.8 GW of new clean energy sources to come online by 2028.

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