California is one of the more polarizing states in the U.S. People either love or hate it.
The state is home to world-class theme parks, hotels, restaurants, and the infamous Hollywood, and to a lesser extent, its progressive environmental laws.
Let's first distinguish environmental from sustainable. Environment is a facet of sustainability, the latter being an umbrella term that encompasses environmental, social, and economic well being. California's laws are considered environmental rather than sustainable as the environment is the regulation's primary focus.
Though the implementation of environmental regulation indirectly aids the social and economic pillars, California has not yet reached that point. The impact typically occurs further down the road of sustainable development.
Nevertheless, California's environmental regulations are certainly a step in the right direction for a future that prioritizes sustainability. They are ahead of many other states when factoring in the recent approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
The approval includes 73% in alternative energy procurement over the next decade, two industrial-scale batteries, and dropping the allotted amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the electric sector from 46 million metric tons (MMT) to 35MMT.
According to one source, " The CPUC's analysis concluded that this level of renewable energy capacity additions would not require significant transmission upgrades, noting in a statement that there is "sufficient space" on the grid and that only "limited" upgrades will be needed by 2032. CPUC said it will validate the conclusion with a study by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) in the 2022-23 transmission planning process.
Because the implementations do not require significant infrastructure, they should prove less challenging. But there is more room for growth and improvement.
A Senior Energy Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a climate advocacy group, remains optimistic about this announcement and its future potential, stating, "I believe a future target of 30 million metric tons in the next IRP cycle will be necessary to put California on the path to reducing emissions from the power sector that appropriately responds to our climate emergency,"
The sunshine state is home to some impressive environmental inventions, particularly in the realm of alternative energy.
Considering the state houses tech haven Silicon Valley, advances in alternative energy may come as no surprise.
Company BrightSource Energy is one of many examples. Located in Oakland, California, the renewable energy startup was founded in 2004 and has since gone on to win the title of one of the top 10 Greentech startups in the world from Greentech Media.
The company specializes in solar thermal energy systems. These systems are similar to traditional power plants but use the sun rather than fossil fuels as an energy source.
The system contains a slew of heliostats, a field of software-controlled mirrors, that reflect the sun's solar radiation to a solar receiver. The solar receiver then uses the concentrated sunlight to heat a boiler and create steam, which turns a turbine, producing electricity. The steam is then cooled and converted to water. Generated electricity can also be stored via the system's two molten-salt storage units.
Another instance is Miasolé, a renewable energy company founded in 2001. Miasolé focuses its efforts on solar energy in a unique way, developing flexible and bendable yet powerful solar cells that can fit around structures and integrate into certain materials. According to the company, this design allows for easier installment, lower costs, higher watts per KG, increased safety, and fewer leaks than traditional solar cells.
Companies like Miasolé and BrightSource Energy are great examples of California's impressive alternative energy innovations.
Plans for continued change on a top-down level, including the California Public Utilities Commission, open doors for even more startups. With continued involvement and investment in this sector, the state should make significant progress toward its goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
The new laws, coupled with the increasing consumer demand, could increase pressure on other cities, states, and organizations to take similar action and implement more aggressive strategies to help combat climate change.