California keeps moving toward the zero-carbon power system goals of the 2045 plan to combat climate change. It has successfully achieved over 97% carbon-free operation of its main power grid this month, but its sustained implementation and backup power still need development.

On April 14, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) announced that on Sunday, April 3, at 3:39 pm, the highest level of clean, renewable energy consumption was recorded at 97.6%, surpassing the 96.4% of late March.

ISO President and CEO Elliot Mainzer said, “This new record is testament to the hard work and collaboration of many people, from policymakers to system operators.” 

While 97% is a high percentage, solar and wind power production usually peaks at this time of year, so more renewable records are still forecasted for April. 

However, the renewable energy plan has yet to deliver consistent supply during the summer, when power supplies diminish, the grid operator said. 

In developing renewable energy, storage is still critical to reliability, and dramatic growth in storage capacity on the system is needed, as the ISO News Release explained

Lawmakers have drafted more than 25 bills seeking grants to speed up the transition to clean energy and transportation to meet the 2045 planLos Angeles Times reported.

Separately, California Gov. Gavin Newsom launched his $10 billion package in January to shift the auto industry to all-electric and ban the purchase of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, reported The New York Times.

Under the proposed rule issued by the California Air Resources Board, the state will require 35% of new passenger vehicles sold in the state by 2026 to run on batteries or hydrogen.

However, even with the mandate to purchase electric cars and ban petroleum-fueled vehicles, they have yet to begin constructing charging stations for such electric vehicles. 

Daniel Sperling, a member of the California air board and director of the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis (ITS-Davis), said this type of transition would be complex and require new policies and incentives. 

Among the challenges he mentioned, building enough vehicle charging stations is included. Also, strategies to persuade consumers to buy electric cars need to be developed. “Why do we think we can get them to buy an electric car?” said Sperling.

While decarbonization of the electric grid is supposedly moving forward, an uncomfortable reality is emerging: reliance on diesel generators as backup power. 

In the past few years, there has been a significant increase in backup generators, or BUGs, with a 34% growth in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a 22% growth in the South Coast area. About 90% of these BUGs are diesel fueled, according to California Energy Markets.

Due to the lack of stable renewable energy supply and continuity, during a heatwave recorded in July, Governor Newsom ordered ships docked in state ports to disconnect from shore power and use on-board engines, mainly diesel-powered.

In this context, California, to implement the desired clean energy and environmental policies, will first have to solve the current serious problems of accessibility and stability of renewable energies, generate the acceptance of its consumers, and be able to operate in the long term.

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