Net Positive 2050 : Energy

Electrical energy consumption and percent renewable energy in California, May 2015


The graph shows the amount of energy used and generated in California’s Bay Area (factored from the CA data), [1].  In particular, the graph shows the electricity generated from renewable sources (wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro and biomass) compared to the total energy output. Nuclear and large hydro do not have an operational carbon footprint, but are not included in the renewable mix.

California’s current electrical energy mix has about 22% generated from renewable sources, with about 24% estimated in the Bay Area based on PG&E’s current energy mix. With the passage of SB 2 (1X), the State goal of renewable energy sources for 2020 was increased from 20% in 2020 to 33% based on the State already being above 20% in 2013. A look at the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) for 2020 indicates that PG&E will be at 31.3% based on power contracts in place today. The State should be able to achieve this energy mix of 33% if it stays the course.

Energy variations in wind and solar output are visible in the graph, given measurements are taken on a monthly basis. Peak energy demand is in the summertime. If one looks at a yearly basis, the amount of energy from renewable sources continues to rise, based on the increases in solar and wind energy sources. The continued drop in the costs of these energy sources indicates that renewable will make up an increasing and integral part of California’s energy mix.

Major drivers towards Net Positive energy goals:

SSV’s Net Positive Bay Area initiative calls for all of California to generate energy that is 100% renewable across transportation, building use, residential use and manufacturing. Policies and incentives must continue to be in place to reduce GHG levels in order to ensure this goal is met. Currently, two major drivers are helping to advance Net Positive renewable energy goals by 2050:

1) Aggressive target-setting through public policy:

  • Policy legislations AB 32 and SB 32 (The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) were passed with overall GHG reduction goals by 2020 and 2050 and authorized a cap-and-trade system that establishes a market value for carbon

    • AB 32 / SB 32 mandates for a 80% statewide GHG percentage reduction of 1990 base levels by 2050

  • Policy legislation SB 350 were passed to achieve the following benchmarks by 2030:

    • 50% of state utilities’ electrical energy to be generated by renewable means (RPS)

    • 50% increase in energy efficiency in buildings

  • Note: AB 32/ SB 32 / SB 350 are specific pieces of Californian legislation

2) Technology and manufacturing scale driving reduction of price:

  • Solar and wind continue to increase in energy conversion efficiency

  • Solar and wind are being reduced in cost based on technology and efficiencies of scale

Additional changes needed to ensure that 2050 Net Positive goals of 100%+ renewable power generation will be met?

  • All electrical energy must come from renewable sources (Wind, Solar, Geothermal, Biomass and Small Hydro). As new capacity is needed in terms of replacement of older plants or from growth in demand, electricity will come from any combination of these renewable resources.

  • As Wind and Solar are variable in output depending on when the wind blows and the sun shines, energy storage will need to continue in development as the major technique to even out the energy generation to match supply and demand curves. Storage will need to drop in cost and extend in capacity to displace current “peaker” plants.

  • Electrical infrastructure will need to support the conversion of a large part of our transportation infrastructure to electrical power (eg. adding many more charging stations).

  • Electrical infrastructure will also require more distributed power (eg. rooftop solar, CCAs, micro-grids) and will need to have the ability to manage this variation. The utility industry regulations on how utilities make money will need to evolve so utilities can be profitable as they generate less energy (more of an ISO business model).

  • More biofuels are required to address applications where electricity cannot easily replace burning for energy efficiency. These fuels need to be based on plants that do not displace current crops.

[1] From an energy consumption point of view, the 9 counties of the Bay Area consume about 20% of the energy used in CA based on the percentage of California’s population in the Bay area. The output of electricity sourced from renewable fuels by PG&E was listed as 23% in 2013. This number will continue to climb as more renewable sources are brought on line.

Note: any energy generation “behind the meter” like solar on homes is not included in the percentages since this is not visible to the organization measuring power generation (CA ISO).

Note: the California Solar Energy Industry Association indicated that the amount of rooftop solar in CA was a total of 2000 MW in 2013. Solar from utility scale organizations was listed as another 2000 MW.

There are listings of all the solar power installed “behind the meter” and future versions of this data will include that as the data become available.


Page author:    Bruce Naegel

Dashboard:    Energy

Last updated:    May 2015