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Growing and Greening the Grid

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

By CEC Commissioner Patty Monahan

California is in the middle of a tectonic shift in energy policy as we are working to help all Californians plug into an ever-cleaner grid. 


Until 2018, the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) forecast of how much electricity was needed in 2030 and beyond was flat or declining due to energy efficiency programs and standards. But since 2019, the CEC’s forecast has projected higher electricity demand over the next decade due primarily to state climate policies, including zero-emission vehicle standards. Electrification is a key climate strategy that can save customers money while improving the air we breathe. 


How California is managing the shift to a growing and greener grid is the focus of the first chapter of this year’s Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR). The CEC is required every year to assess and proactively plan for California’s energy needs. The report is crafted in collaboration with a range of stakeholders and with a focus on equity.  


The first chapter of the 2023 IEPR looks at how to connect clean energy resources such as solar, wind, battery storage, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and electric appliances to California’s grid. 


Achieving state goals will require unprecedented deployment of clean energy resources of all types and sizes, ranging from large renewables and storage to small flexible loads like EV chargers and appliances. To reach a 100 percent zero-carbon electricity grid by 2045, annual solar and wind build rates will need to triple, and battery storage installation rates need to grow by nearly eightfold. By 2030, we need to install more than 1 million shared EV chargers and more than 4 million heat pumps.   


New and upgraded electric infrastructure is needed to connect these clean energy resources to the grid. Many of the wires and equipment are old and cannot handle the resources that need to be deployed to meet California’s changing climate. Load flexibility and energy efficiency will play a critical role in limiting the amount and cost of new infrastructure but alone are not enough. Investments in the grid also must be balanced against impacts on electricity rates and include measures to contain costs for consumers and to ensure low-income and disadvantaged communities directly benefit from the transition.  


The CEC, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and the California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) are working together to proactively plan for and manage this energy transition. Our agencies are implementing new policies and approaches to help fortify the grid and connect clean resources more rapidly. But more must be done to overcome barriers. That’s why we’re identifying the next steps to speed the deployment of clean energy resources on the grid. 


The first chapter of the 2023 IEPR is organized around five key challenges, catalogs the current actions, and identifies the next steps that build from ongoing efforts. Recommendations include expanding proactive planning and investment for grid readiness, identifying alternative sources of funding to ready the grid for electrification, encouraging advanced technologies, speeding up permitting processes, and developing a workforce to build the infrastructure and clean energy resources we’ll need. 


Other chapters in the 2023 report include California’s evolving energy demand forecast, the potential growth of clean and renewable hydrogen, and updates on topics addressed in past reports, such as energy efficiency, the role of gas, and the Clean Transportation Program. 


Past IEPRs served as nurseries for innovative solutions to California’s climate challenges. 


  • The 2003 report called for an acceleration of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires a certain percentage of electricity to come from clean energy sources. The latest data shows that in 2021 more than one-third of the state’s electricity came from RPS-eligible sources such as solar and wind.

  • The 2005 report recommended the Solar Homes program that eventually became a piece of legislation in 2006’s Senate Bill 1, now known as the Million Solar Roofs Initiative.  

  • The 2009 report started the discussion around battery storage. Between 2019 and October 2023, battery storage grew from 250 megawatts to 6,600 megawatts– enough electricity to power 6.6 million homes! 

  • The 2015-2017 report launched the discussion on offshore wind. California has a goal to deploy up to 5,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030 and 25,000 MW of offshore wind by 2045 — enough electricity to power 3.75 million homes initially, with a goal of powering 25 million homes by midcentury.  


To read the draft recommendations and learn more about the 2023 IEPR, visit the webpage. Comments on the draft IEPR recommendations are due by December 1, 2023. 


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