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Leah Louis-Prescott's picture
Associate Rocky Mountain Institute

Supporting city and state efforts to eliminate fossil fuel use in buildings with Rocky Mountain Institute. Fellowship Coordinator for the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI). Alumna of...

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  • Sep 15, 2020

One of the key takeaways from the E3 report is that aggressive building electrification is considered a “least-regret” strategy to get to carbon neutrality by 2045, meaning it’s required for the state to reach its carbon goals in a cost-effective manner. In all three paths to carbon neutrality that E3 evaluated, the retail natural gas distribution system will need to undergo “a significant reduction in use,” and one of the scenarios recommends the complete decommissioning of the system by 2045.

As climate change-fueled disasters worsen, California cannot afford to wait. Slow action may be as detrimental as inaction when human lives are on the line.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 15, 2020

As climate change-fueled disasters worsen, California cannot afford to wait. Slow action may be as detrimental as inaction when human lives are on the line.

This is interesting to put it this way. When getting people to try to understand the importance of climate actions like building electrification, do you think pointing to the wildfires and other climate-tied impacts is more effective than perhaps economic arguments? I would hope seeing the devastation would instill a sense of 'doing the right thing now,' but in the end I still think humans are wired more for the immediate rewards (economic) rather than the one that unfortunately would take longer (decarbonize your building, see climate impacts dampened, and long term reduction in these devastating results) 

Seb Kennedy's picture
Seb Kennedy on Sep 15, 2020

That's the heart of the problem, Matt. Long-term thinking is not in our DNA. And when climate chaos becomes an immediate question of survival, it will be too late to do anything about it. For those that have perished or lost their homes and livelihoods in widlfires, flooding or hurricanes, it already is. And there is only worse to come.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 15, 2020

From E3's report:

"Furthermore, California has prohibited the development of new nuclear facilities absent the existence of a federal nuclear waste repository. Thus, advanced nuclear technologies, while potentially promising as a zero-carbon resource, are not assumed in this study."

"Potentially promising"? Nuclear is arguably the most practical, cost-effective solution. So if California's 50-year-old prohibition on new nuclear is the only thing standing in the way, why E3 doesn't consider policy changes - specificially removing the prohibition on new nuclear facilities - is mystifying.

Possibly no one at E3 had read Powering California with Nuclear Energy, a 2011 report from the California Council of Science and Technology (CCST), which concluded

"There are no technical barriers to large-scale deployment of nuclear power in California. There are, however, legislative barriers and public acceptance barriers that have to be overcome to implement a scenario that includes a large number of new nuclear reactors.
• Estimates of electricity costs from new plants range from 6 to 8¢ per kilowatt hour (KW-hr) up to 18¢ per KW-hr with most estimates at the lower end of the range. Our conclusion is that 6 to 8¢ per KW-hr is the best estimate today.
• By 2020 California will have to repeal its limitation on new nuclear starts which is now based on the licensing of a permanent repository.
• By 2020 California’s regulations that now mandate that the large amounts of emission free energy required in the future can only come from wind, solar, geothermal and small hydroelectric systems should be changed to allow all low or zero emission sources to contribute."

CCST assumed that by 2020 prevailing public opinion would be based in fact. They assumed that by 2020, Californians would understand the existential threat posed by climate change and demand real, proven solutions - not speculative, intermittent "green" ones.

Who would have known that for Californians, it might take burning down half the state and rolling blackouts to get the point across?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Sep 15, 2020

As climate change-fueled disasters worsen, California cannot afford to wait. Slow action may be as detrimental as inaction when human lives are on the line.

It sounds like authors are saying that if California electrifies its building then climate change-fueled disaster in California will go away. Really??

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 16, 2020

No kidding. Maybe the author is referring to human lives a few millennia from now?

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