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Climate and Environment

Edison: California Won’t Reach Its 2030 Climate Goals Without Flipping The Switch To (Mostly Carbon-Free) Electric

The sunset creates a bright orange glow behind a series of transmission towers and power lines in Los Angeles, CA.
The sun sets behind Los Angeles transmission towers and power lines
(Robert Thiemann
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California is aiming to reduce greenhouse gases 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. But a report from Edison International says at the current rate, we’re not going to make it.

The state could miss the mark by between 30 and 90 million metric tons if specific steps are not made to significantly bring down carbon emissions, the utility argues.

The lower estimate is based on the state fully meeting existing policy goals and funding. The higher estimate assumes California's average annual reduction rate continues at its current pace.

The state would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 4% each year to meet the 2030 goal. And to get there, Edison International says we need to be more aggressive about electrifying our vehicles, homes and offices. (The electric power grid itself has to run on at least 80% carbon-free sources by 2030. The goal is 100% by 2045.)

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Buildings, ranging from high-rises to single-family homes, are responsible for one-fourth of excess CO2 emissions, while transportation accounts for even more: about one-third.

So one of the first steps to take is to get more electric vehicles on the road, according to Erica Bowman, Edison International Director of the CEO’s Office. To do that, electrics need to be more affordable and accessible. Just finding a place to charge your EV can be a challenge, she noted.

“We're seeing that we need more than 1.1 million shared public chargers,” Bowman said. “There's a lot of work that needs to be done in order to deploy that amount of infrastructure and ensure that the charging itself isn't limiting vehicle adoption.”

The electrification can — and should — apply to home appliances as well, said Bowman, but it needs to be more attractive for homeowners and building operators to make the switch. Many people don’t even think to go electric when a major home appliance, like a water heater, breaks.

“We need to educate consumers on why it matters when either your air conditioning, space heater, or your water heater fails,” Bowman said. “It is so important that the replacement occurs with an efficient heat pump.”

The big thing to keep in mind, however, is that the power grid itself sometimes struggles to handle current demand, especially as temperatures rise. Remember all those power shutoffs last year? The Edison International report outlines that more must be done to strengthen the grid if we are to move towards more electric power.

Bowman said consumers won’t even want to go electric if they expect the power grid to go down with more use.

“They’re not going to want to electrify their vehicles. They're not going to want to electrify their buildings,” she said. “So this is something we're very focused on.”

Edison International has other suggestions to strengthen the power grid, including more renewable investments such as onshore and offshore wind sources, solar, and possibly even hydrogen.

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Installing longer-reaching power lines to bring in more energy from out of state is also on the table. Also, better technology to store power for single-family homes and public spaces is encouraged as both a money-saver and a backup for power outages.

But with 2030 just around the proverbial corner, Bowman said there’s urgency to take action now.

“It's really about what we need to do in the next 12 to 18 months to get the policies and the funding in place so that we are able to meet those 2030 goals," she said.

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