California Gov. Brown Signs New Goal: 100% Zero-Carbon Electricity, Adds 100% Carbon-Neutral

Updated: Oct 23, 2018

In a new, bold move, California has upped its energy plans. Their new goal? 100% zero-carbon by 2045.

Solar and wind farm in California. Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

UPDATED SEP. 12 WITH GOV. BROWN SIGNING


State lawmakers voted on August 29 to shift California electricity to 100% carbon-free by 2045. This legislation headed to the state governor, Jerry Brown, for signing. The governor signed the legislation and added another piece to it that was not expected. He signed an executive order stating that California should be carbon-neutral by 2045.


California already has one of the strongest clean energy mandates in the country, with a commitment to obtain 50 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and geothermal power by 2030. The legislation would increase that 2030 commitment to 60 percent, on the way to fully carbon-free electricity by 2045.



What Does Carbon-Neutral Mean?

Carbon-neutral is when the given entity releases no unnatural carbon dioxide. If they do release some carbon dioxide, that same amount of carbon dioxide must be released from the atmosphere. For instance, cars can be 100% carbon-neutral if they are electric and powered by clean energy. However, with current technology, a plane cannot affordably be electric. That means that the same amount of carbon dioxide emitted by California planes must be takes out of the atmosphere by carbon capture and storage (taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it where it cannot effect it). If California deems that it is not possible to have the entire car fleet be electric and support them with clean energy, they will have to make it so that they take out some more carbon dioxide.


Carbon neutral includes electricity, cars, planes, factories, and others that release carbon dioxide. Carbon neutral does not usually include human respiration.



What Does 100% Zero-Carbon Electricity Mean?

California will not be the first state that has committed to renewable energy. Hawaii committed to the same 2045 goal in 2015. However, California is the most populated state, which would make it harder to achieve that goal.


This law will also help California meet its goal of having 1.5 million electric cars on the road by 2025, and 3 million by 2030. As noted in talking about the NYC Electric Buses, electric cars are not emissions-free unless they are powered by renewable energy. By 2045, they will be. If California gets all their cars to be electric, by 2045, California would be a zero-emissions state in the energy and transportation sectors. That is already the largest step towards the executive order of carbon neutral.


This legislation also ups the 2030 goal to 60% renewable energy instead of the previous 50%.



Leading the Climate Charge, While Trump Pulls Back

California has proven that it is a strong leader in fighting climate change.


"California keeps proving we know to invent a future few could even imagine"

former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a letter urging lawmakers to pass the 100 percent carbon-free electricity legislation.


California is fighting on all fronts. San Francisco has even more ambitious clean energy legislation in place. The state is getting prepared to fight the Trump Administration in court. Sacramento is trying to push back the fossil fuel agenda set there by the Trump Administration. California has put in legislation requiring all new homes to have solar panels, starting in 2020.


Former Vice President Al Gore also weighed in with his endorsement.

"While our federal leadership is failing to act to solve the climate crisis, it is imperative that California continue its world-renowned efforts to reduce global warming pollution and provide a blueprint for other states and nations on how to address climate change while continuing to grow your economy"
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