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CEC Chair Shares California’s Progress and Challenges Ahead to Achieve a Clean Energy Future

By MPCO Staff

The California Energy Commission (CEC) and Stanford University held an energy summit on Jan. 29 to discuss how academia and government could deepen their work together to overcome barriers to a clean energy future.  

CEC Chair David Hochschild and Commissioner Andrew McAllister joined representatives from Stanford, the California Air Resources Board, the California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison, among others, for the day-long event in Palo Alto, which drew more than 1,000 attendees, with more than 300 in-person.  

Topics included electrification and reliability, sustainable transportation, decarbonization, battery manufacturing, and data innovation in energy policy and planning. 

“The world is embarking on the largest transition it has ever undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy, and people are looking for a model of excellence,” said Arun Majumdar, dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. “California has long been at the forefront of energy and the environment with policies that have been adopted by other states, the federal government, and nations around the world. It really has been that model of excellence.” 

Meeting the state’s energy challenges will require knowledge, innovation, and an intense focus on communities, especially those that are underserved, he said.  

“We are being asked to reimagine an academic institution and how we engage with, and create value for, society at large. We need all of you as fellow travelers in this journey,” Majumdar said. 

Chair Hochschild provided opening remarks, describing the success California has had in bringing renewable energy online.  

“Alternative energy is the wrong phrase to use to describe renewables in California,” he said. “Fossil fuel has now become the alternative.”

In 2021, more than 37 percent of the state’s electricity came from Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS)-eligible sources such as solar and wind. When combined with other sources of zero-carbon energy, such as large hydroelectric generation and nuclear, approximately 59 percent of the state’s retail electricity sales in 2021 came from nonfossil fuel sources. 

“The future we are building is run largely through wires and not pipes, and those wires are delivering clean power,” Hochschild said. “Today, we are at about 60 percent carbon-free electricity on the grid, and we are aiming to get to two-thirds by the end of this year.”  

California’s aggressive energy goals, which include having a carbon-free electric system by 2045, were initially mocked, he said. “I was at many forums where this was just laughed at,” he said. “Well, now it is law in 21 states, and President Biden has made it a goal for the country. It’s another example of California policy driving clean energy mainstream.” 

Some of the challenges ahead include increasing the buildout of renewables, increasing transmission, and bringing offshore wind online. “None of this is easy, but it is all in the realm of a solvable problem,” he said. 

The sold-out event was hosted by the CEC, Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, and the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.  

Videos of the event are available on the Stanford YouTube web page. 

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