California just committed itself to “an unprecedented amount” of clean energy

Nathanael Johnson | Grist Link to article

The state sees renewables as the best way to prevent blackouts.

California just made a massive order for clean electricity.

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a plan that requires utilities to buy 11.5 gigawatts of zero-carbon electricity by 2026. That’s a lot: Between a third and a fifth of the electricity California is using at any given moment.

“This is a landmark decision, I don’t think it is hyperbole to describe it as such,” said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen. The directive calls for “an unprecedented amount of clean energy,” he said.

It’s an especially significant decision because it’s not primarily intended to boost clean energy, but to ensure that California doesn’t have blackouts.

In the past, many states have boosted renewable energy with subsidies or mandates, but when it came to the basic job of making the lights go on when you flip the switch, they fell back on fossil fuels. But on Thursday, with a unanimous vote, California’s Public Utilities Commission enshrined the plan to bolster its electrical capacity so much with clean energy — like geothermal plants, and solar panels backed up by batteries — that it reduces the risk of its grid going dark. Renewable energy has finally gotten its moment to step into the spotlight, said John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies.

“We are now thinking about renewables to meet our needs — not just to check the box,” he said.

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