California has followed Hawaii in pledging to stop using all forms of fossil fuel in the state by 2045. The California legislature has passed a bill to that effect and sent it to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk to be enacted into law.
The bill would require all electricity sold to consumers to be generated by solar, wind and other renewable energy sources within three decades. The measure passed over the protests of California utility companies, which told lawmakers the goal isn't practical.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) fossil fuels generated more than 62 percent of U.S. electricity in 2017 while nuclear energy contributed 20 percent. Renewable energy provided just over 17 percent of U.S. electricity.
The EIA reports California currently gets about a third of its energy needs from renewable sources. Natural gas provides nearly half the state's energy and it gets 9 percent from nuclear.
'100 percent clean energy'
“When it comes to fighting climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, California won’t back down, ” said State Senator Kevin de León, who sponsored the measure. “We have taken another great stride toward a 100 percent clean energy future.”
California lawmakers approved the measure after statewide polls showed widespread support for phasing out fossil fuels. One poll showed 72 percent of state residents were in favor.
The measure passed the legislature on a 43 to 32 vote. Opponents warned supporters of the economic consequences.
"We pass all these goals for renewables, but at the same time our families back home will pay the cost with an increase in the electric bills every year as we try to achieve this,” said Assemblyman Devon Mathis, who cast one of the no votes.
Scientists have long debated whether it is feasible to produce all of the nation's energy needs from renewable sources.
Writing in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, researcher Benjamin Heard and colleagues cast doubt on the ability to produce all needed energy from renewable sources, citing extreme weather events with low sun and low wind.
Scientists supporting the idea counter that it will be possible, arguing there are technical solutions to all of the drawbacks Heard and his colleagues raised.