California’s climate plan does not include new gas plants


California regulators on Wednesday announced plans to accelerate the state’s clean energy transition by reducing demand for fossil fuels by the end of the decade, including ending construction of new gas-fired power plants. — measures that would help tackle climate change but could put the state at a higher risk of blackouts.

The proposal, which will be voted on by the California Air Resources Board next month, outlines how the state could achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, one of the nation’s most ambitious deadlines. Although it does not have the force of a legal ban on new gas-fired plants, its approval would send a clear signal to other state agencies, including the California Public Utilities Commission, of current state policy. .

If California follows through on the proposed plan, global warming emissions are expected to fall 85% below 1990 levels by 2045. California would also exceed its interim target, which requires emissions to fall by 40% by 2045. by 2030. The new plan calls for a 48 percent reduction by the end of the decade.

“The climate is changing before our eyes. We must take action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change and there is only one way to do that, to break our dependence on fossil fuels forever,” said Liane Randolph, chair of the commission of the air. Still, she warned that achieving state goals would be a challenge. The plan “calls for a buildup of renewable energy resources at a rate we’ve never seen before in this state,” she said.

Although an earlier proposal would have allowed the state to expand its use of gas, regulators said they finally hit that part at the urging of climate advocates speaking on behalf of inner-city neighborhoods near oil refineries and gasworks.

California’s aspirations to quickly transition to clean energy have been thwarted by the lingering threat of blackouts, especially on hot summer nights when air conditioners hum and the state can’t harness energy solar farms.

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In June, California lawmakers approved a controversial plan, backed by Governor Gavin Newsom, that would extend the life of older natural gas power plants and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to help bolster the power grid. This week’s action by CARB would not affect this legislation, but it would prevent the construction of new natural gas plants, even those built with technology to limit emissions.

Additionally, air quality regulators in September announced a ban on new sales of natural gas heaters, water heaters and furnaces by 2030. The ban is part of a new comprehensive plan to meet federal ozone standards over the next 15 years, but also benefit the climate by reducing carbon emissions.

According to the plan developed by air commission staff and announced on Wednesday, many of the biggest cuts would come from the transportation sector. California has banned the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035, and the council is working on a proposal to end sales of large diesel trucks, delivery vans and other large vehicles over the next two decades.

But the proposal also calls for rapid electrification of buildings: three million all-electric homes by 2030 and seven million by 2035. If the state is to meet its goals, officials estimate it will need six million heat pumps by 2030 and 20 gigawatts of offshore. wind energy by 2045.

“The backbone of this transition is going to be having a clean network,” said Rajinder Sahota, the council’s deputy executive director for climate change and research. To power millions of cars, trucks and appliances, the state will need to nearly double its existing electricity generation and quadruple wind and solar power, she said.

Still, California does not expect to exit oil and gas. Older gas-powered cars and trucks will be on the road for years to come, and some of the hardest-to-turn industries, such as cement plants, aren’t expected to break free from fossil fuels anytime soon. “Existing fossil gas generation will continue to play a critical role in grid reliability” until other alternatives can be deployed, the plan notes.

To address these remaining sources of greenhouse gases, the proposal recommends the use of technology to capture and store carbon. Environmental advocates have criticized this part of the state’s plan, saying it relies on unproven technology and would allow polluting industries to continue operating in parts of the state burdened with one of the worst air pollution in the country.

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