Renewables Met All of California's Energy Needs for the First Time Ever

The supply of renewable energy, mostly solar, briefly met the state's total demand for energy on Saturday in a landmark moment for sustainability.
Renewables Met 100% of California's Energy Needs for the First Time Ever
Image: Tetra Images - Gary Weathers via Getty Images

For a few minutes on Saturday afternoon, all of California’s energy needs were met by renewable energy for the first time.

That’s according to data from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the state’s non-profit grid operator, which recorded the landmark moment around 2:50 p.m. on April 30, the California Desert Sun reported.

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At that time, the state’s overall production of renewables hit a peak at 18,629 megawatts, comprised primarily of solar (66 percent) and wind (25 percent), rounded out by geothermal, biomass, biogas and hydro, data from CAISO shows. Simultaneously, overall demand for electricity fell just shy of that, by around 600 megawatts, hitting a low for the day that allowed renewable energy to carry the grid. 

“On 4/30/2022 at 2:50 p.m. we reached 99.87 % of load served by all renewables, which broke the previous record set on 4/3/22 of 97.58%, CAISO spokespeople said in an emailed statement. “The previous record was initially broken at 2:28 p.m., but the percentage of load served by renewables continually increased for about 20 minutes until 2:50 p.m. when it sustained 99.87% for approximately 2 minutes.”

Dan Jacobson, senior advisor to non-profit environmental lobbying group Environment California, tweeted about the moment as it was happening on Saturday, sharing a screenshot of real-time CAISO data that showed the proportion of renewables serving electricity demand to be 101 percent. “California busts past 100% on this historic day for clean energy!” he tweeted.

“Twenty years ago no one thought we could get to 100% renewable energy. But bit by bit, bill by bill, and solar panel by solar panel we did it,” Jacobson wrote in a statement.

The accomplishment serves the state’s overall goal of meeting 100 percent of its electricity needs with clean power by 2045. And while this particular landmark moment in renewable power was fleeting, renewable supply eclipsed the supply of natural gas by a large margin for twelve hours of the day on April 30, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The state also saw 97.6 percent of its power come from renewables a few weeks prior to Saturday’s achievement, on April 3. At 3:39 p.m. on a Sunday, the grid broke a previous record of 96.4 per cent, a trend that signals what it could look like for California to reach its clean energy commitments. 

“When we see renewable energy peaks like this, we are getting to re-imagine what the grid will look like for generations to come,” Ashutosh Bhagwat, chair of the ISO’s board of governors said in a press release on the April 3 victory. “These moments help crystallize the vision of the modern, efficient and sustainable grid of the future.”  

Update: This article was updated with comment and confirmed figures from CAISO.