Renewable electricity powered California just shy of 100% for the first time in history

LOS ANGELES - Renewable electricity met just shy of 100% of California's demand for the first time on Saturday, officials said, much of it from large amounts of solar power produced along Interstate 10, an hour east of the Coachella Valley.

While partygoers celebrated in the blazing sunshine at the Stagecoach music festival,  "at 2:50 (p.m.), we reached 99.87 % of load served by all renewables, which broke the previous record," said Anna Gonzales, spokeswoman for California Independent System Operator, a nonprofit that oversees the state's bulk electric power system and transmission lines. Solar power provided two-thirds of the amount needed.

Environmentalists who've pushed for years for all of California's power to come from renewables were jubilant as they watched the tracker edge to 100% and slightly beyond. 

"California busts past 100% on this historic day for clean energy!" Dan Jacobson, senior adviser to Environment California, tweeted.

"Once it hit 100%, we were very excited," said Laura Deehan, executive director for Environment California. She said the organization and others have worked for 20 years to push the Golden State to complete renewable power via a series of ever tougher mandates. "California solar plants play a really big role."

But Gonzales said CAISO double-checked the data Monday and had to adjust it slightly because of reserves and other resource needs. 

Environment California pushed for 1 million solar rooftops statewide, which has been achieved, adding what some say is a more environmentally friendly form of solar power than the solar farms, which eat up large swaths of the Mojave desert and fragile landscapes.

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Deehan said in a statement that more needs to be done, especially at the federal level. "Despite incredible progress illustrated by the milestone this weekend, a baffling regulatory misstep by the Biden administration has advocates concerned about backsliding on California’s clean energy targets." 

Deehan said a Department of Commerce inquiry into tariffs on imported solar panels is delaying thousands of megawatts of solar-storage projects in California.

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.”


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