California’s new Public Utilities Commission president must lead us to a gas-free future

By Gladys Limón and V. John White | Special to CalMatters Link to article

Equipment and machinery is seen on a ridge above a natural gas well known as SS25 in Southern California Gas Company’s vast Aliso Canyon facility. Photo by Scott L via Creative Commons.

Everywhere you turn in California, clean energy technologies are winning out over gas.

From Oxnard to Los Angeles and Glendale, to the Inland Empire and Bay Area, proposed and existing gas-fired plants are being scrapped in favor of cleaner options.

Clean energy is winning because it’s a safer and more affordable option.

This is critical for the communities who have been forced to live with gas plants in their backyard—often low-income communities of color who have disproportionately shouldered the pollution burdens of our state’s dependence on fossil fuels. For them, the shift to cleaner energy sources comes not a moment too soon.

As solar and wind costs plunge, energy storage technology such as batteries and large scale, pumped water, compressed air, and thermal energy storage are proving they can cost-effectively reduce our reliance on gas to meet local capacity and reliability needs.

Battery storage projects are now slated to replace gas-fired plants in Moorpark, Oakland and San Jose, to provide reliable energy when the sun is down and the wind isn’t blowing.

But getting to 100% clean and affordable energy is about more than closing gas plants.

It’s about enabling an entire suite of clean resources, from distributed generation, to local solar power that recharges energy storage systems, to demand response, time-of-use rates, and targeted energy efficiency to work together to balance the energy grid.

This is the hard work facing Marybel Batjer, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newly appointed president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Bringing these zero-emission resources on to the grid requires innovation, new ways of thinking and a strong dose of political will.

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