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California Wrestles with Challenges to Meet the State’s Renewable Energy Goals

On July 15, the Los Angeles Times Summit on renewable energy brought together government officials, academics, regulators, fossil fuel executives, and renewable energy advocates to discuss the challenges California faces in meeting the state’s goal of supplying 50% of its electricity through clean energy by 2030.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom affirmed California’s commitment to its renewable energy goal despite issues concerning electricity costs, economic stagnation, and consistent sourcing in his remarks at the summit. However, he also acknowledged, “We have to be sensitive to issues related to energy costs.” To learn more about the summit, continue reading!

California currently has some of the highest electricity costs in the country. Participating as a panelist, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was the former president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said that for the past two decades, high electricity prices have contributed to economic stagnation in the Los Angeles area. She also commented that regulators have overestimated the amount of natural gas needed to back up energy from renewable sources on the grid, which could raise electricity costs even further as the state shifts to greater reliance on wind and solar power.

Panel experts expressed conflicting opinions about the effects of California’s dependence on natural gas as the state works toward its goal of supply 50% of electricity through clean energy. California relies on natural gas for 61% of its electricity generation, and natural gas prices are predicted to spike over the next year. As a result, the state could face a major economic crisis over high energy costs; according to Patrick Currier, an energy consultant and former congressional energy expert, industrial manufacturers will continue to leave the state at an increased pace should electricity prices rise further. However, others noted that California may need even more natural gas in the future to back up less reliable electricity generation from wind and solar.

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Thomas R. Burton, III

Member / Chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Tom Burton has helped to shape the clean energy industry by drawing on his passion for innovation. As a Mintz attorney, Tom counsels investors, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 100 companies. He also guides start-up organizations and accelerators to foster the next generation of energy leaders.