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A clear vision to achieve economywide electrification

16th September 2021 Caroline Choi, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Edison International and Southern California Edison 3 min read


California has some of the most ambitious and forward-looking climate policies in the nation. The state’s goals are to reach carbon neutrality by 2045 while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

There’s no doubt California can reach its goals over time. Getting it done affordably and reliably in the required time frame is the challenge.

Climate Week NYC gives Edison International an opportunity to share ideas and actions we are taking to achieve net-zero solutions. The transition to a clean energy future must be equitable and affordable across society, while ensuring the electric system remains reliable and increasingly resilient to a changing climate. We look forward to exploring and discussing the costs and benefits of various policies to decarbonize and electrify the economy. We also look forward to learning from others about what’s working and lessons we can apply here.

Multiple sectors and stakeholders, including Edison, have ideas to drive decarbonization of the economy. In November 2019, our utility, Southern California Edison shared a data-driven blueprint, Pathway 2045, of feasible and economic steps that California could take to achieve its 2030 and 2045 goals for a clean energy future. It calls for decarbonizing electricity, electrifying transportation and buildings, using low-carbon fuels and sinking remaining carbon — all while ensuring that electricity remains affordable for the most vulnerable communities in our service area. The impact of the COVID‐19 pandemic has shown how disproportionately the most economically disadvantaged customers have suffered — just as they do from the effects of air pollution and climate change.

We see economywide electrification as the key to affordable decarbonization — to take advantage of the rapid rise in clean energy. SCE’s Pathway 2045 analysis shows that the average California customer will see their total energy costs decline by one-third as we move away from gasoline and embrace the greater efficiency of electric technologies. The next dollar invested to reduce carbon emissions may have a bigger impact when spent on an electric vehicle or heat pump instead of eliminating the last molecule of carbon dioxide from power generation. Electrifying more quickly has the added health benefit of reducing nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions, which are heavily concentrated in disadvantaged communities.

With the transition to a clean energy future, we expect major changes in how customers use electricity, which will place unprecedented demands on the grid. So, we have also looked at how the grid is planned, designed, built and operated and how its architecture must evolve to ensure electric system reliability and resilience. As electricity becomes the fueling system for a larger part of the economy, we must reimagine what the future grid should look like and how it will need to function differently to meet expanded needs.

While California has made significant progress, we are now analyzing where additional actions and outcomes are needed and what policies and incentives could close that gap. Analysis underway by Edison International shows that California must reduce its emissions by an average of 4.1% each year from 2019 to 2030 to meet its 2030 GHG reduction goal — nearly four times the rate of reduction achieved up to now. This will require a substantial and sustained capital infusion from public and private resources. Moreover, the state’s course must be adjusted by the end of 2022 to realistically achieve its decarbonization goals while maintaining energy affordability.

Active stakeholder engagement and a robust regulatory framework that recognizes the essential role of the electric utility to achieve clean energy and climate goals are important factors to California’s success. We are taking an approach that is pragmatic yet ambitious as we safely deliver reliable and affordable energy for everyone. Setting a vision, mapping ideas and identifying achievable targets are needed now more than ever, and we look forward to working collaboratively to align the clean energy transition with the principles of equity, environmental justice and affordability for all.