The supply of renewable clean energy in California briefly met the state’s total demand for energy, illustrating major progress in climate action. 

California was just shy of 100% powered by renewable energy for the first time on April 29, demonstrating the state’s advances in meeting its goal of obtaining all power from clean energy. 

For about two minutes, the Golden State’s main grid ran on 99.87% renewables, breaking its previous record of 97.58% on April 3, according to the California Independent System Operator. During the period, overall renewable energy production reached a peak of 18,629 megawatts, where solar energy contributed the largest share at 66%. It was followed by wind at 25% and other clean energy sources including geothermal, biomass, biogas and hydro. 

But overall demand for electricity dropped by roughly 600 megawatts, which allowed renewables to carry the load in meeting the state’s energy demand. Renewable supply also surpassed natural gas on the following day on April 30, marking a positive progress in reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. 

“Twenty years ago no one thought we could get to 100% renewable energy. But bit by bit, bill by bill, and solar panel by solar panel we did it,” wrote senior advisor of non-profit environmental lobbying group Environment California Dan Jacobson in a statement.

Solar energy played a key role in this milestone for California. A large portion of the solar generation is produced along Interstate 10, an hour east of the Coachella Valley. According to Environmental California, the organisation has successfully pushed for 1 million solar rooftops to be installed across the state, and to help “complete renewable power via a series of ever tougher mandates.”

California, often considered to be the leader on environmentalism in the US, has set down an ambitious target to have all of its electricity come from renewable or zero-carbon energy sources by 2045. Despite the brief achievement, the environmental group believes that so much more can be done. 

Jacobson specifically cites the Biden administration’s recent inquiry into tariffs on imported solar panels could delay thousands of megawatts of solar-storage projects in California, potentially slowing down or “backsliding on” the state’s clean energy targets.

Still, Deehan said, “California has shown that, for one brief and shining moment, we could do it! It’s time to move to 100% clean energy, 100% of the time.”

EO’s Position: The world is rapidly losing sight of being able to stay under the 1.5C limit of global temperature rise to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. We need to rapidly scale up renewable energy generation as quickly as possible. California has shown that it is possible to go 100% renewable energy; with strong investment and inter-connected regional grids over 10 years, states and countries can successfully transition to renewables. 

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