California goes electric. Can the state’s power grid handle it?

The Concordia Courier


By Caralin Nunes | 3/17/2023

In an unprecedented regulation, California has mandated all new vehicles be zero-emissions by 2035. To do so, the state must triple the amount of power generation it currently uses, according to the Senate bill report. 

The regulation was proposed to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and decrease pollution put into the air by gas powered vehicles. However, the millions of vehicles currently on the road that are powered by gasoline and diesel are not affected by the mandate. 

“Once again California is leading the nation and the world with a regulation that sets ambitious but achievable targets for ZEV (zero-emission vehicle) sales,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph. “Rapidly accelerating the number of ZEVs on our roads and highways will deliver substantial emission and pollution reductions to all Californians, especially for those who live near roadways and suffer from persistent air pollution.” 

While some see this switch as a step in the right direction toward a cleaner, greener California, others have concerns. 

The announcement of the mandate came six days before a grueling heatwave hit the Golden State, resulting in a surge of electricity use, during which time Gov. Gavin Newsom urged California residents to cut back on their energy consumption, which led many to question whether the state’s power grid could even handle a zero-emissions vehicle mandate. 

Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear power plant which currently serves nearly 10% of the state’s total electricity supply, is required to shut down in 2030, and under state law all power must change to renewable energy by 2045. Officials are expecting 15 times more electric vehicles to be on the roads by 2035, but where will the electricity to sustain that come from?

John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing automakers, said electric vehicles have a place on the roads, but California’s timeline and mandates would be “extremely challenging” for the automotive industry and the people of California to meet.

“Whether or not these requirements are realistic or achievable is directly linked to external factors like inflation, charging and fuel infrastructure, supply chains, labor, critical mineral availability and pricing and the ongoing semiconductor shortage,” Bozzella told reporters. “These are complex, intertwined and global issues well beyond the control of either the California Air Resources Board or the auto industry.”

Financial concerns do not lie with just energy infrastructure. Many families raise an issue with the affordability of electric vehicles themselves; new electric cars can vary from $25,000 to well over $150,000. Inflation, supply chain shortages, increased demand and charging costs have led many Californians to experience sticker shock when searching for a new electric vehicle.

California’s goal of 100% renewable energy and zero-emission vehicles is a daunting task. As the 2035 target date draws nearer, the Energy Commission has not yet put together any policies to meet these deadlines. With no apparent plans on the horizon and less than 10 years to go, California may not be able to deliver on its promises. 



About Caralin Nunes

Local/Global Editor

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