California needs to triple historical decarbonization rates to meet 2030 carbon target, report finds

According to a new study from Energy Innovation, California is not on track to meet its economy-wide decarbonization targets by 2030.

California needs to triple historical decarbonization rates to meet 2030 carbon target, report finds

  • According to a new study from Energy Innovation, California is not on track to meet its economy-wide decarbonization targets by 2030. The study estimates that the state will produce 307 million metric tons of emissions in 2030 – nearly 20% over the target.
  • The study emphasized the importance of electrifying energy demand in the state, noting that this would reduce California’s exposure to volatile global oil markets.
  • "We need to act now to address climate change," said Chris Busch, research director with Energy Innovation. "Every sector has opportunities for us to reduce emissions quickly and effectively."

Governor Jerry Brown of California set a goal for the state to reduce emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This was done through legislation passed in 2016. Two years later, Governor Brown issued an executive order to make the state carbon neutral by 2045. This means that the state's emissions will need to fall below 260 million metric tons (MMT) in eight years in order to meet the target. To put this into perspective, this is more than tripling the state's historical decarbonization rate.

This analysis is being done in order to provide insights to the California Air Resources Board as they develop their 2022 scoping plan. This plan outlines the state's approach to reducing carbon emissions.

The agency is finishing an update for 2022. The update focuses on the goal of reducing emissions by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2045. However, the draft of the plan has been criticized by some people, including environmentalists and climate experts, for not being aggressive enough.

The Energy Innovation report recommends multiple policies that California should prioritize in order to reduce emissions. One recommendation is to have all new cars and light-duty truck sales be zero-emission by 2030. This would reduce emissions by 38 MMT per year. Another recommendation is to have 100% electrification of new appliances by 2030, which would reduce emissions by another 19 MMT annually.

The report recommends that California increase its clean energy standard to 76% renewables and 92% zero-emission electricity by 2030. Legislation passed in 2018 adopted a state target of 60% renewable resources by the end of the decade. Earlier this year, the California Public Utilities Commission set a 35 MMT greenhouse gas emission planning target for the electric sector by 2032, which would result in 73% renewables by 2032.

The report says that even small increases in clean energy standards can have a big impact because of the increased use of electricity from things like electric cars. But it will also be important for policymakers to make sure that people can still afford to pay for electricity, especially if there are large costs associated with wildfires.

Keeping electricity rates affordable will be a key part of electrifying more end uses, according to Busch. “And then there’s also just the question of equity — since energy is such a fundamental essential of life, and energy costs tend to be a higher proportion of budgets for lower-income households,” he added.

California is trying to increase the use of renewable energy sources while also trying to electrify more of its energy demand. This means that the state will need to rely on demand flexibility in order to succeed. Pierre Delforge, the director of clean buildings with the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean energy program, says this is going to be a key part of California's strategy.

"It's important to consider the reliability of our energy grid, the cost, and how we can achieve our goal of using renewable energy," he said. "We need to make sure that the demand for energy matches the availability of renewable energy. That means we'll need to be flexible with our energy use."

It will be a challenge to make sure that demand flexibility is available for all customers everyday. The traditional concept of demand response only involved a few large customers a few times per year. But we need to make sure that every appliance sold is able to respond to time-of-use rates or grid signals by default.

Connie Cho, an associate attorney with Communities for a Better Environment, said that Energy Innovation's report is just the latest piece of scientific evidence that shows CARB should revise its proposed scoping plan. "I think across the board, we need to see more aggressive [electrification targets] to be able to meet the scale of the climate crisis," Cho said.

Back to all articles

Greater sales tomorrow begin with your decision now.