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California was the first state to set aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Senate bill 32, AKA Cap and Trade, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. We are well on our way to meeting these goals, and happily a dozen other states are pursuing similar paths. In 2018 Governor Brown issued an executive order to go even further: achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 and negative greenhouse gas emissions afterwards. The Governor and Legislature have allocated more than $6 billion dollars — collected from the Cap and Trade Program — to fund the transition away from polluting fossil fuels.

Greenhouse gas emissions come from a variety of sources: 40.6% transportation, 25.8% industrial processes, 12.6% commercial (mostly buildings), 11.9% residential, and 9.2% from agricultural and forestry. As a result of previous policies, most significantly renewable portfolios standards, solar and wind — we have hit most of our goals in the electricity generating sector. Excellent progress is also being made in transportation, most notably with electric cars. California is also making progress in the commercial vehicle segment by incentivizing electric buses and trucks.

Nevertheless, almost 25% of our GHG emissions still come from buildings: natural gas for space heating, hot water heating, clothes washing and drying, cooking, and pool heating. New construction standards, both for commercial buildings and residences, will almost completely eliminate natural gas in new buildings. However, natural gas appliances are embedded in our existing homes and commercial buildings, and many of these buildings will be with us for another hundred years (if they are not under water by then).

It’s a big job to change out the appliances in our current building infrastructure. To learn more about these challenges and realistic solutions, please Listen Up to This Week’s Energy Show as we speak with Jeff Byron. Jeff served as the Commissioner at the California Energy Commission for 5 years and more recently a member of the Cleantech Open and Band of Angels. Jeff actually walks the talk, and currently lives in a net zero carbon emission home.

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