The world’s need for more energy while generating less carbon dioxide (CO2) is an extraordinary challenge. The Shell Powering Progress Together (PPT) event in San Francisco, California, made for the perfect setting for a discussion about the challenges of such an undertaking.
“More and more eyes are on California, waiting to see if its energy transition efforts will succeed or fail,” said moderator Mark Lee, Director of think tank SustainAbility, which co-hosted the event with Shell.
Lee pointed out that California is second from the bottom in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced per capita across the USA, a credit to its success in decarbonising its electric grid and transport sector.
Offering renewable energy
Chris Benjamin, Director of Corporate Sustainability for Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves electricity to 16 million people in north and central California, said 70% of the electricity they provide is now free of greenhouse gases.
Erica Mackie from Grid Alternatives, a non-profit organization that brings solar technology to underdeveloped communities, stressed that the energy transition should offer underserved communities “a place at the front of the line when it comes to the benefits and opportunities that flow from a cleaner energy system”.
Marin Clean Energy was founded to increase the take-up of renewable energy sources in northern California. It offers customers the opportunity to buy electricity that is supplied by 50 to 100% renewable sources.
Its CEO, Dawn Weisz, explained how the company quickly managed to double the amount of renewable energy used by their customers while keeping costs competitive.
Weisz also refuted the suggestion that disadvantaged communities care less than affluent communities about where their power comes from. Instead she explained how residents in the lower income city of Richmond, a city in western Contra Costa County, were responsible for MCE’s biggest increase in their “Deep Green” 100% renewable product.
This, she argued, showed they were willing to spend slightly more for clean energy.