California’s Energy Future: Challenges and Opportunities
Policymakers in Sacramento and beyond can gain insight into the state’s energy challenges and potential solutions through a newly released California Council on Science & Technology report
As an environmental trailblazer with the fifth largest economy in the world, California’s energy decisions are sure to make big waves. Policymakers in Sacramento and beyond can gain insight into the state’s energy challenges and potential solutions through a newly released California Council on Science & Technology report, led by an expert steering committee including Michael Mastrandrea, research director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
“This is a period of rapid technology and policy change,” Mastrandrea said. “Evidence-based and inclusive decision-making can ensure California pursues effective climate solutions that also prioritize environmental justice and equity.”
The overview authored by the steering committee emphasizes the need to decarbonize the state’s economy in a way that:
- Maximizes efficiency, and electrifies energy used to the greatest extent possible
- Provides affordable, accessible, and reliable electricity; and
- Uses clean fuels, efficiency, conservation, and better land-use planning and infrastructure for activities that cannot be electrified.
Investments in more advanced and efficient technologies to replace emission-intensive ones “will pay dividends in the form of energy cost savings over the long run. In addition, the value provided by improved health from cleaner air and reduced climate change impacts will almost always outweigh the up-front costs.”
Careful thought should go into how to pay for the energy transition, the report cautions. “Attention must be paid to those who bear the costs to ensure equitable access and affordability,” the authors write. "There is a tremendous opportunity for this transition to help reduce historical inequity and injustice as well."
Increased collaboration among state, local, and regional agencies will be key to accomplishing many energy initiatives, Mastrandrea and his coauthors write. As an example, they cite the challenge of reducing vehicle miles travelled, and call for coordinated efforts to implement compact development patterns; fund housing near jobs and services; invest in public transit, walking, and biking infrastructure; and engage the public.
“We need integrated work across policy, technology, and equity to make progress in the three fundamental elements of decarbonizing energy highlighted in this report,” Mastrandrea said. “There are vast and varied opportunities for researchers to be a part of this progress by applying their skills to informing public and private sector decisions.”
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