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California runs on 100% clean energy for the first time, with solar dominating

For the first time ever, California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, was powered by 100% clean energy on Saturday, April 30. That milestone was driven largely by solar power.

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California’s 100% clean energy milestone

Energy demand statewide reached 18,672 megawatts at 2:45 pm, with 37,172 MW available. (Excess is exported to neighboring states.) 101% of the power provided came from clean energy, according to a continuous tracker provided by California Independent System Operator (CAISO), a nonprofit that oversees the operation of the state’s bulk electric power system, transmission lines, and electricity market generated and transmitted by its member utilities.

Desert Sun notes that solar dominated the mix:

Two thirds of the 18,000 megawatts needed was provided by solar power loaded into the energy grid — or 12,391 megawatts. The rest came from wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources. The milestone lasted almost 15 minutes before edging back down to about 97% renewables.

Environment California state director Laura Deehan said in an emailed statement:

California has shown that, for one brief and shining moment, we could do it! Now we need to get our state running on 100% clean energy for the whole day, the whole week, and the whole year. It’s time to move to 100% clean energy, 100% of the time.

California has a mandated clean energy target of 100% clean electricity by 2045.

Electrek’s Take

In 2020, California surpassed 81% clean energy, so Saturday’s milestone demonstrates that the state is making progress.

Hydropower is becoming less reliable due to the severe drought situation in the West, and California is shutting down its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by 2025.

California is of course still running natural gas plants, and as Canary Media pointed out today, it still burned enough gas to meet about 15% of demand while it had enough non-hydro clean energy production to meet 97% of demand. The excess natural gas was exported to other states. 

Saturday’s milestone is worth celebrating, but California still has a lot of work to do to run on 100% clean energy year-round. Doesn’t everyone?

Read more: Here’s how a new US protectionist move is backfiring badly on the US solar industry [update]

Photo: “Solar on Palm Desert Walmart” by Walmart Corporate is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.