California’s transition from coal to renewable energy 

For many years, California has continued to hold potential for future development for renewable energy. California contributes to the second-highest share of the United States’ energy consumption due to its large economy driven by a high population. Despite the high energy utilization rate, the state boasts of being among the country’s energy-efficient states’ leaders. In the past decade, the state government rolled out legislative initiatives to kick-start its transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. In 2015, California mandated the SB 350 that enforce a 50% of its electrical power generation from the state’s renewable source, a vision it anticipates to achieve by 2030. The energy transition program includes the gradual phasing out of fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation facilities by replacing their infrastructure to utilize renewable energy. The technologies incorporate renewable energy storage techniques and other hybrid energy systems to produce electrical power for the national grid. 

Governor Jerry Brown, the serving California representative, enacted a law in 2018 that mandated all utility companies to strive to achieve zero-emission electricity production by 2045. Governor Gavin Newsom, the current state official, endorsed a directive ordered by the executive to ban the purchase of brand-new gasoline-powered automobiles by 2035. California continues to take additional steps to attain a zero-emission economy for the state’s future. This point of view pictures the state as the brilliance of renewable energy. 

However, a closer examination of California’s history of energy utilization during the past centuries indicates a different energy scenario. In the 1800s, experimental explorations led to identifying oil reservoirs and an abundant natural gas deposit in Central Valley. The discovery resulted in an increased demand for fossil fuels to boost California’s economy, turning the state into a crude oil supplier. Central Valley earned the name California’s oil capital. Statistic reports in 2018 indicated that California emerged as the seventh-largest supplier of the country’s market demand for crude oil. However, oil fields dispersed across different counties in Southern California are operational until today. Consequently, this perspective paints the state as a well-thriving economy driven by fossil-fuel-powered industries and businesses. 

Energy experts suggested that California’s energy history stimulated the need to transit to renewables. Most of the state’s post-war period shows how California continued to thrive on coal-fired electricity imported by the state from different out-of-state power facilities in the West. California imported electricity from Intermountain Power Plant, one of the primary coal-fired facilities in Delta, Utah. The plant supplied California with electricity since the 1980s.

In summary, California’s energy sector’s two perspectives continue to bring a mixed reaction because experts warn that it depends on the study’s intended purpose. Nevertheless, California continues to strive to improve its transition to renewable energy. 


By Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and other federal agencies. He is a graduate of Middlebury College.
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