- The California Air Resources Board (CARB) this week released its assessment of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, showing California is two years ahead of its emissions reductions goals following a big dip in 2016.
- Emissions in 2016 totaled 429.4 million metric tons, a drop of about 2.7% from the year before and slightly below 1990 levels — which state law mandated be reached by 2020.
- While the state is now running ahead of its schedule, future targets may not be so easy to hit. Emissions must decline another 40% by 2030 and reach 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Earlier this year state regulators adopted a planning process aimed at helping make GHG reductions easier to achieve.
The steady growth of California's renewable energy resources is having a big impact. While the size of the states GHG emissions drop is impressive on whole — 2.7% is nothing to sneeze at—the power sector's decline was much larger.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the electric power sector dropped from 83.67 million metric tons in 2015 to 68.58 million metric tons in 2016 — a decline of about 18%.
"The largest reductions came from the electricity sector which continues to see decreases as a result of the state's climate policies, which led to growth in wind generation and solar power, including growth in both rooftop and large solar array generation," CARB wrote in an analysis of trends.
Emissions from the electric power sector are now about 35% below decade-ago levels. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a new type of planning process this year to continue that track.
The process requires load serving entities to file integrated resource plans that include at least one scenario that conforms to the CPUC's planning direction, while also presenting any utility-preferred scenarios that may deviate from the commission's planning standards.
And in order to provide a general planning direction to the electric sector, the CPUC adopted a portfolio of energy resources which includes of approximately 10,200 MW of new renewable energy resources and 2,000 MW of new battery storage resources by 2030.
California leaders past and present took a victory lap.
"California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results," Gov. Jerry Brown said in a tweet. But the next step, he said, will be "a heroic and very ambitious goal."
Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation setting the state on a path towards dramatic reductions, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle was more bombastic in his response.
"Surpassing our 2020 emissions goal ahead of schedule while our economy grows by a nation-leading 4.9 percent and our unemployment rate is at a historic low should send a message to politicians all over the country: you don't have to reinvent the wheel — just copy us," he said in an email to the newspaper.