California Reduces Planned Carbon Intensity of Electricity Sector, But Future Target Should be Lower

Statement by Mark Specht, Senior Energy Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Feb 10, 2022

SACRAMENTO (Feb 10, 2022)—The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today adopted a lower carbon emission target for the state’s electricity sector, but the Union of Concerned Scientists says more aggressive decarbonization will still be necessary for the state to achieve its climate goals.

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The CPUC approved a target of 38 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as part of its Integrated Resource Planning (IRP), which guides the state’s electricity providers on how to most effectively meet future electricity demand while reducing carbon emissions.

Below is a statement by Mark Specht:

“I support the CPUC’s adoption of a lower carbon emission standard than it has approved in the past, which is particularly important when you consider the urgent need to quickly decarbonize California’s economy along with uncertainties in the accounting of carbon emissions in the CPUC’s modeling tools.

“I believe a future target of 30 million metric tons in the next IRP cycle will be necessary to put California on the path to reducing emissions from the power sector that appropriately responds to our climate emergency.

“Also, the CPUC made the right decision to leave intact its procurement order from last summer that does not include natural gas power plant upgrades as an eligible resource. The additional capacity of zero-emitting resources previously ordered should be sufficient to ensure grid reliability and replace retiring fossil-fueled generation and the Diablo Canyon power plant.

“The Union of Concerned Scientists strongly supports the development of programmatic procurement requirements as part of the IRP process, and is encouraged that today’s decision includes a commitment to develop such requirements. They will be a critical tool for ensuring that the state’s electricity sector reaches its global warming emissions reduction targets and UCS looks forward to participating in the development of these requirements.”

Note: While this decision includes a commitment to develop programmatic procurement requirements, there are currently no requirements in place. To rectify that, Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) recently introduced SB 881, sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, to clarify that the CPUC has the authority to establish and enforce global warming emissions reduction requirements for the electricity sector. The bill aims to move the IRP process beyond planning and requires that load-serving entities follow through with their commitments, helping to ensure California will achieve its climate change goals.