California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills in September to move ahead with California’s renewable energy transition. They included investments totaling $15 billion to boost green energy in electricity and transportation. Significant investments were also set aside for wildfire prevention and drought mitigation programs.
Commentators focused on a less prominent part of the legislation. Senate Bill 423 detailed new terms for deciding what counts as a “firm zero-carbon” resource. The new terms allow natural gas to count as a zero-carbon energy source. That’s the view from news outlets like Forbes and the industry publication Natural Gas Intelligence.
The legislation provides two requirements for an energy source to be a zero-carbon resource. “Electrical resources that can individually, or in combination, deliver electricity with high availability for the expected duration of multiday extreme or atypical weather events” is the first condition. The second is that zero-carbon sources must “facilitate integration of eligible renewable energy resources into the electrical grid and the transition to a zero-carbon electrical grid.”
The California Energy Commission will decide which zero-carbon resources “support a clean, reliable and resilient electrical grid” by December 31, 2023. Observers expect natural gas to be one of these resources. As Natural Gas Intelligence puts it, “Its lofty goals notwithstanding, California appears unlikely to ditch fossil fuels in the power sector, especially natural gas, anytime soon.”