Renewable energy linked to reduction of California’s emissions to pre-1990 levels

New data from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has revealed that emissions have fallen to below the levels recorded in 1990, with renewable energy deployment a key factor in this reduction.

The recent CARB report found that greenhouse gas emissions in the US state had fallen to 429 million metric tonnes (MMt) in 2016, which is below the 431 MMt emitted in 1990.

This is the first time this century that this milestone has been reached and means that California has beaten its state emissions reduction target four years early, with a detailed inventory by CARB showing that this was largely due to increasing deployment of renewable energy.

Overall emissions fell 18% in 2016 and total electric power emissions have fallen by roughly a third from over 100 million tonnes CO2 equivalent in 2000 to less than 70 million tonnes in 2016.

Of all energy sources, combined rooftop and utility scale solar met an estimated 13% of California’s electricity demand in 2017, the highest level of any US state. Plus, while solar generation has increased, natural gas generation has fallen.

But the board also attributes the progress in emissions reduction to a surge in hydroelectric energy during 2015 and 2016, due to abundant rainfall across the two-year period.