California just made a massive order for clean electricity.
On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission signed off on a plan requiring utilities to buy 11.5 gigawatts of zero-carbon electricity within 5 years. That’s between a third and a fifth of the electricity California needs at any given moment, and it's very important in more than the obvious environmental way.
“This is a landmark decision, I don’t think it is hyperbole to describe it as such,” said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen. The directive calls for “an unprecedented amount of clean energy,” he said.
The decision is especially significant as it’s not primarily intended to boost clean energy, but to ensure that California doesn’t have blackouts.
In the past, many states have boosted renewable energy with subsidies, but when it came to the basic job of making the lights go on when you flip the switch, they fell back on fossil fuels. However, California’s Public Utilities Commission plan to boost its clean energy capacity by such a massive amount - with, for example, geothermal plants and solar panels backed up by batteries - that it reduces the risk of its grid going dark.
Renewable energy has finally got its moment to step into the spotlight, said John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies.
“We are now thinking about renewables to meet our needs - not just to check the box,” he said.
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