100 Percent Green California

California’s Senate leader wants the Golden State to shift to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045, pushing it to lead the country in grabbing that green power goal.

Environmentalists are cheering California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León’s (D) plan to double, and accelerate, the state’s current renewables mandate of 50 percent by 2050. Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio even tweeted his thanks to de León among his 17 million followers.

The nation’s most populous state switching to fully renewable electricity sounds idealistic. But several experts said it can be done — with a lot depending on definitions, technological advancements and acceptable price tags.

“2045 is a long way away,” said Severin Borenstein, economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “A lot could happen between now and 2045.”

Energy storage through batteries “could get a lot cheaper. That could make the goal much more attainable and much more cost-effective,” he added. Wind and solar energy already are close in price to natural gas, he said. “If you could actually store the power cost-effectively, then you could make it work much more effectively.”

Others warned major expenses would ensue. Large-scale solar and wind projects often go in deserts or other open areas, requiring added infrastructure to move the power to cities, said Evan Birenbaum, who led the environmental strategies program at Los Angeles-area utility Southern California Edison Co. before leaving in 2014. He now heads Chai Energy, which focuses on reducing household energy consumption.

“You would need to build new transmission lines to support the incoming [renewable] power,” Birenbaum said. “Old power lines might not be able to support it.”

Utility substations also likely would need upgrades, he said, adding, “You’re talking about many billions of dollars that have to be invested in that new renewable energy future. It’s the ratepayer who will have to pay for that.”

Borenstein said that calculating how much it will cost nearly 30 years from now is “nearly impossible to answer. … Imagine going back 30 years,” when the internet-connected cellphones used now didn’t exist.

“It’s very hard to predict technology 30 years in advance,” he added.

FFT: Although goals and estimates for 100% renewable energy may not be accurate to the year, the challenge gives us perspective as we progress towards the goal. Who knows, maybe we’ll even beat it.

( Visit the full article at the Scientific America )

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-california-go-100-percent-green/