As most readers know, we’ve been writing about renewable-energy potential for years. Some have accused us of being shills for the sun and wind-power industries.
And in a very real way, they are correct — because we will promote, tirelessly, any technology that provides the resources we need to survive, while at the same time helping to save this planet.
Critics of renewable energy sources have always pointed to the shortcomings of wind and solar power. For example, those sources can provide electricity during daylight hours and on windy nights, but what happens when the sun stays behind the clouds, or the jet stream shifts away and winds die down?
That and costs have been the fundamental question for years. Renewable, sustainable energy can work during the day, but Californians must rely on fossil-fuel energy sources for light, heat and/or cooling at night.
There are answers for that question, too. California has a sophisticated hydro-electric capacity, and as we know, rivers continue to flow in the evening hours. So, once a complete renewable-energy network has been established, the hydro-electric component will fill in the gaps during night time.
We bring all this up, again, because the California Energy Commission last month released its annual report on the state of California’s three investor-owned utilities — which includes Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison — and all three companies are on track to supply 50 percent of the state’s electric-power needs by 2020.
That is enormously significant, because when the state mandated the 50-percent attainment goal more than a decade ago, the target date was 2030.
That’s how fast the renewable-energy market is moving — and it is definitely headed in the right direction.
This steady, successful progress is important not only to California and its energy consumers, but to the entire nation. California is one of a handful of states that are embracing the shift from fossil-fuel power generation to renewable sources. We are leading the way into the future.
Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged last year the important role the oil and gas industries have played in California’s prosperity, but it was praise with a bullet — emissions from those generating sources are slowly but surely destroying the environment.
The best way to look at this is that we need a vibrant economy, and the oil industry has been a major part of that for generations. But economic growth will be meaningless if the place where it grows is choked with bad air and diminished properties.
With regard to economic factors, one reason the renewables business is now thriving involves lower production costs. The price of solar power dropped to below $30 per megawatt-hour in 2016, from around $136 per megawatt-hour in 2008. Wind power prices per megawatt-hour have been reduced by half in the past decade.
The argument that renewable sources of electric power are too expensive compared to oil, gas and coal is becoming moot, and it will only get better for the renewables side.
California’s policy attitudes also have progressed right along with improvements on the technology side, a belief shared by Democrat Brown and his predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Energy should not be a Democrat or Republican thing. It’s a people thing, as in all people.
As we’ve said so many times before, the Central Coast is uniquely qualified to be a renewable-energy epicenter, with ample sunny days, reliably brisk winds most of the time — and a changing attitude about what our future will be.