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California Reduces CO2 Emissions for Third Year in a Row

Tom Schueneman's picture

Environmental writer, journalist and web publisher. Founder of

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  • Jan 17, 2013

Comparison of California carbon emissions by sector from 2008-2011 climate changeCalifornia’s CO2 emissions fell in 2011 for the third straight year, putting the state in a good position for meeting its target of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARP) and as mandated by California AB32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006). Since businesses began reporting data in 2008, emissions have steadily declined from 133,4 million tons to 111million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, shedding a full 22 percent in 2011.

Electricity production, once the leading sector for CO2 emissions in the state, made the biggest inroad towards reduction targets by cutting emissions 17.5 million ton between since 2008. Emissions from electricity generation was 34.9 million tons in 2011.

Renewables, conservation, carbon market contribute to reduction

Analysis from the CARB attributes the reduction in emissions from power generation to conservation and increased renewable energy production. California has one of the most ambitious renewable energy production targets in the US with a goal of 33 percent by 2020 through the California Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Last summer the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) announced that the state was the first in the nation to install 1,000 megawatts of customer-generated solar power. California’s Independent System Operator (ISO) and the CPUC reported that on two occasions during August of last year a record-breaking 1,000 megawatts of solar energy was brought on line at one time, writes Noah Long in the Natural Resource Defense Fund’s  Switchboard. That’s enough electricity to power the city of San Francisco or roughly as much power as is generated from two large gas plantsThe state’s three largest electricity generators, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric, met intermediate RPS targets of 20 percent renewables for the period of 2011-2013 last summer as well.

With renewable energy production surging in the state, especially solar, and its carbon trading scheme now fully underway, California has an excellent head start for meeting its emissions reduction and clean energy production goals to help avoid the devastating effects of climate change. Hopefully other states will follow.

J Elliott's picture
J Elliott on Jan 17, 2013

How much of the reduction in CA emissions is due to their chronic economic recession, higher than average unemployment and people/companies exiting the state?

John NIchols's picture
John NIchols on Jan 17, 2013


   Congratulations to the California Air Resource Board for 9.8% unemployment, helping California rank 49th out of the 50 states.  Keep up the great work.  You are in race to the bottom. 


Tom Schueneman's picture
Tom Schueneman on Jan 17, 2013

I live in California and certainly the chronic economic issues we have here is a valid point. I'm not sure about "people/companies leaving the state." Perhaps you can provide some statistics on that. Here's some info on California population:

In any case, the state's focus on deploying renewable energy, particulary solar, is certainly a factor in this. Electrical generation is the leading sector in emissions reductions.

John NIchols's picture
John NIchols on Jan 18, 2013


Let's bust a few big myths and educate the reader, shall we?  Alternative energy sources like wind and PV do not add to Capacity or Capability if you prefer.  All they do is temporarily displace reliable sources of energy like coal, nuclear, natural gas, and to a limited extent in most areas of the country -hydroelectric.  

This means all reliable energy sources (run inefficiently and generally emitting more CO2) are still needed to meet demand and to balance the intermittency of wind and solar. Thus, society must pay twice for the same energy supply required, once for the alternative energy and again for reliable energy necessary to meet increasing demand, which must occur, if for no other reasons than to pay the Nation's debts. 

The only way wind and solar rent seekers can stay in business is to convince the citizenry/politicians to reduce electricity consumption, voluntarily or through force, for a long enough time period to reach the point of no return, which is the point at which no additional capital is available to invest in any sort of new generation because too many jobs have been destroyed. Green jobs always destroy more unsubsidized jobs than they create, as proven by multiple studies, starting with Spain's experience and  their 25% unemployment.

If consumption is not reduced, new reliable capacity will have to be built before electricity bills get too high, which means, the folks will start wondering why they can't keep their air conditioning running 24/7 even as their energy bills skyrocket and jobs disappear.  After all - they did pay for all those wind turbines and solar panels that are suppose to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and create the new green economy- right?  People can't be allowed to become too smart too soon, not when the ultimate goal is global redistribution of wealth.  




Ramesh Calamur's picture
Ramesh Calamur on Jan 18, 2013

Per California Energy Commission's data, on total electric system power by fuel type, the changes in the power mix have different causes.


They attribute the drop to "two primary reasons are the ongoing recession and mild temperatures." Large hydro has seen an increase displacing the use of natural gas based generation during spring and early summer, after the wetter rain seasons. Renewables have increased from 32,532 GWh in 2008 to 41,393 GWh in 2011, out of total of 290, 518 GWh, quite significant increase -- geothermal and wind account for 67% of the renewables.

Tom Schueneman's picture
Tom Schueneman on Jan 19, 2013

A very tortured description of baseload power - somehow ending up with a "global redistribution of wealth." Everyone has an agenda and to Mr. Nichols credit his is plainly visible. 

Here's another look at renewable energy and baseload power:

Randy Voges's picture
Randy Voges on Jan 20, 2013

Everybody keep eyes focused on California and Vermont!  No more death by study, folks!  This is the real deal!

Tom Schueneman's picture
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