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California's electric possibilities

California governor in suit.
California governor Jerry Brown. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

California's new law to decarbonize electricity could drive even bigger emissions cuts in other energy sectors of the huge state, according to a new analysis by the nonprofit group Third Way.

The big picture: The law signed this week requires the world's fifth-largest economy to have 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045. And Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to have the whole state become "carbon-neutral" by then.

Third Way's memo breaks down what happens if the power law is accompanied by aggressive efforts to electrify transportation, and space and water heating.

  • And that's not a fantasy — the analysis notes that regulators envision electrification as a key way to help meet the state's existing 2030 emissions goals.

By the numbers: The group's 2030 projections show...

  • The power sector effect of the law, SB 100, would cut 84 million metric tons of CO2 per year.
  • Another 91 million metric tons annually comes from taking a large bite out of transportation and heating emissions, with most of that coming on the transportation side.

The bottom line: "[T]he emissions reductions from SB 100 will more than double if California follows through in electrifying other parts of the economy," the memo states, adding that more gains are expected post-2030.

Yes, but: Ok that's a lot, but Third Way also notes it adds up to 40% of the state's total emissions. So, there would still be much further to go in transport and electricity, and the state also has to address other sectors — notably agriculture and industry, which are big emissions sources.

Quick take: The term "electrify everything" is gaining currency in climate policy circles, and the memo provides helpful projections of what can happen if policymakers breathe life into the phrase.

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