10 years after then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed the climate change bill AB32, SF Chronicle has published an article to review the progress. Renewable energy has make a remarkable stride in the last decade. Mostly boosted by solar and wind, they have doubled the contribution to about a quarter of the power mix. They have delivered all their promises and then more.
The Sunday article is largely celebratory. It is a recognition of the marvelous strive we have made to reduce carbon emission. And an example to show what is possible for our future and the rest of the world.
But I noticed a dark fact, an elephant in the room nobody has paid attention to. The biggest change in the power mix is not the amazing feat that solar has grown from nothing to 7.7%. The biggest change is that natural gas has increased by 13.5% to contribute 60% of California electricity. Some of this has displaced coal power. But still, entirely unacknowledged in the article, fossil fuels power use has a significant net increase by 6%.
What gives? Instead of transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy, we are just making up for the dramatic reduction in hydro power, and a significant drop in nuclear power. It reminds us there is still a long way to go to actually replacing fossil fuel use.
I believe the world has made a big mistake in retrenching from nuclear power. Imagine instead of shutting down nuclear power plant, we double it from 14% to 28%? Instead of increasing fossil fuel use go up to 60%, we could have knock it down to 46%. To reduce fossil fuel power below half would have been a remarkable achievement for a major economy. This is an audacious goal, but still within the realm of feasibility. Consider Diablo Canyon's capacity is only 2GW and China is building 8GW plants.
When people look back to the early 21 century, they would have regretted that they miss out on an important force to fight climate change because of the outsized fear of nuclear power.