Regions: the key to unlocking a renewable energy future
In the western U.S. a major change in how the electrical system is operated is underway. It is driven by economics, environmental policy and system reliability concerns. This change, from a balkanized, inefficiently operated grid to a coordinated, consolidated grid, just may be the key to our renewable energy future.
We have heard much recently about California’s ambitious new climate and renewable energy goals. In his 2015 State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown listed three main goals to be accomplished within the next 15 years. First, increase the amount of electricity the state derives from renewable sources from one-third to 50 percent. Second, reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent. Third, double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.
For California these goals are needed to maintain progress on a trajectory to a much bigger target. The real goal is an 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2050, the emissions reduction the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists believe is necessary to forestall a global disaster and keep warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
We cannot reach our ambitious goals without a more coordinated grid. Years of research on deep penetrations of renewable energy into the region and nation’s electricity system agree that regional coordination, balancing area consolidation and related measures are essential elements for success.