A pathway for clean energy now in California
California needs more clean energy now. To accomplish this, we need to embrace the cleanest energy while going big on solar and offshore wind.
For too long, we’ve lived in a society powered by dirty and dangerous energy sources like fossil fuels which threaten our environment, our climate and our public health. Clean energy, or energy that does not pollute our environment and warm our planet, is the way of the future because it lets us tap into clean, virtually unlimited energy sources like sunshine and wind to power our lives. Although the state of California is a clean energy leader, having the most installed solar capacity in the nation, we still need an unprecedented, “record-breaking” amount of new clean energy capacity to realize our goal of 100% clean energy by 2045. This clean energy progress cannot wait, so Environment California is prioritizing three areas to achieve clean energy now: energy conservation and efficiency (“the cleanest energy”), going solar, and going big on offshore wind.
To get more clean energy now, we need to:
Embrace the cleanest energy
Saving energy, whether through adopting more efficient technologies or learning practices to conserve energy, is considered “the cleanest energy” because it represents the energy we never use in the first place. If we save more energy, that means less energy needs to be produced and less energy infrastructure needs to be built, which is better for the environment and our energy bills. The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to shift towards 100% clean energy is to first reduce the total amount of energy we use and let go to waste. There are many ways that households, businesses, and individuals can boost energy efficiency and conservation. Check out these resources to learn more about how to embrace the cleanest energy:
Reduce energy waste
Take charge of your home by reducing energy waste and becoming more energy efficient. Read through our Citizen’s Guide to Reducing Energy Waste for tips to implement in every room of your house or apartment that will save energy and money.
Weatherize your home
Achieve lower energy costs, more comfort and less pollution all by weatherizing your home. Learn how to make home improvements that will reduce your energy use such as sealing cracks and openings, weatherstripping around doors and windows, and insulating your pipes and water heater.
Use the clean energy home toolkit
Reference our clean energy home toolkit for steps on how to electrify your home, buy a new or used electric vehicle, and embrace clean energy at the household level to reduce pollution and energy use with more efficient technologies.
Use new tax credits and rebates
Several key tax credits and rebates from the new Inflation Reduction Act are now in effect. Californians can take advantage of these incentives to switch to cleaner, more efficient technologies like electric stoves and appliances, new and used electric vehicles, heat pumps and much more.
Get paid to reduce your electricity use
Utility companies throughout California have programs that pay participants to voluntarily save energy at critical times when electricity is in high demand. Customers of the state’s investor-owned utility companies, for example, can participate in the Emergency Load Reduction Program and earn $2 for each kilowatt-hour voluntarily saved during a grid emergency.
Solar power has been and should remain a key part of California’s clean energy portfolio. Solar can be installed more quickly than any other electricity generating source, enabling California to respond at the speed and scale necessary to address the climate crisis. California leads the nation in installed solar capacity, but there is still so much more potential we can tap into to power our lives. Taking advantage of underutilized developed areas for solar, rather than threatening nature and wildlife by installing solar in natural spaces, will ensure that solar keeps growing with minimal environmental impacts.
To take advantage of the best untapped areas for new solar in California we should look at the following areas:
Superstores and warehouses
We should capture the sun’s rays on the state’s largest rooftops, such as on superstores and warehouses. These areas sit largely idle throughout California, soaking up sun but getting nothing in return unless solar panels are installed. For example, California has over 10,000 big box buildings, which could power over 869,000 homes if fully equipped with solar.
Solar on parking lots is an idea whose time has come. Incentivizing more solar canopies on the state’s huge number of parking lots will generate more clean electricity while catalyzing more zero emission vehicle infrastructure like clean electric vehicle charging in parking lots.
California has countless miles of highways and interchanges that could accommodate huge amounts of solar up and down the state. It’s time to look at these underutilized areas and put solar along highways to benefit communities across California.
The environmental benefits of rooftop solar and its vast potential to capture the sun’s energy on rooftops across the state make rooftop solar an important clean energy tool. State officials say we need to quadruple the amount of rooftop solar to meet our climate goals, meaning all households and businesses should consider putting panels on their roofs. We will continue to advocate for strong rooftop solar incentives that fairly compensate solar customers for the clean energy they provide to their communities. Check out this guide on how to go solar and compare quotes to go solar from our partner EnergySage.
Go big on offshore wind
An important clean energy solution yet to be taken advantage of is the plentiful coastal winds off the state’s shoreline. AB 525, passed in 2021, set the stage for offshore wind in California by directing the state to evaluate its offshore wind capacity and to establish offshore wind planning goals accordingly. In August 2022, the California Energy Commission (CEC) laid the groundwork for embracing wind energy by setting an ambitious goal to reach 25 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2045, enough to power over 25 million homes. In December 2022, the first offshore wind lease auction took place in California, further setting the stage for big offshore wind production. The momentum to go big on offshore wind has never been stronger, so now we must ensure that the process of building and developing the state’s offshore wind capacity is done the right way.
Companies with new leases will soon start the process of building offshore wind, and the CEC will release its full strategic plan in June 2023, which will include a roadmap to developing a permitting process and a more detailed outline of how the state will reach its ambitious goals. While we are on the right track, there are still many hurdles to overcome to make offshore wind a thriving reality. For example, the state must chart a path forward for port development, develop policies to make sure energy providers can access the offshore wind, address transmission issues and supply chain challenges, build boat fleets and other needed technology, invest in workforce training for the new industry, and meaningfully engage with all stakeholders including California’s tribes, local communities, conservation groups and the fishing community.
Legislators have indicated willingness to make sure California leads the way in offshore wind this year. We’re eager to work with the legislature and willing partners to ensure California embraces its potential and continues to go big on offshore wind.
Clean Energy Advocate, Environment California
Steven leads Environment California’s campaigns to increase clean, renewable energy throughout the Golden State, spearheading efforts to transition away from dangerous fossil fuels and address climate change. Steven lives in Los Angeles where he enjoys spending time outdoors, watching his favorite L.A. sports teams, and playing the trombone.