After months of surveys, analysis and preparation, the California Energy Commission’s draft 2013 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) is out – and it shows that dramatic progress is underway in the state’s transportation fuels market. Not only has the state made measured progress towards a more diversified fuel market through targeted investments, the growth of alternative fuels shows that policies like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) are working and compliance is achievable.
Accounting for nearly 40 percent of total energy consumed in the state and 38 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, the transportation sector is almost universally recognized as an area where significant progress needs to be made. As shown by the IEPR, California’s powerful response to this realization through policies like the LCFS, AB 118 investment program and AB 1493 Pavley clean vehicle standards, just to name a few, has led to significant strides in greening transportation and reducing fossil fuel use. Notable milestones to date recognized in the IEPR include:
- A marked increase in the use of alternative fuel sources.
A rise in the use of natural gas, biofuels, and electricity has enabled lower-carbon energy sources to rise from a barely detectable level a few years ago, to about 7 percent of total transportation fuel use today. (Page 19)
- Expanded funding for clean fuels and energy efficient technologies.
The Energy Commission has contributed more than $400 million across 233 projects related to alternative transportation fuels manufacturing, research and development and workforce training. With matching private and other public sector contributions of nearly $740 million, state-led investments have resulted in a multiplicative effect (about $1.80 from private and additional public sector funding for each $1.00 invested by the Energy Commission) and significant progress towards the state’s energy and climate goals. (Page 176)
- Substantial progress and growth in the California biodiesel industry.
The biodiesel industry has grown exponentially in the past few years, resulting in significant production of in-state volumes. In addition, research currently underway could significantly reduce production costs – meaning even greater volumes in the near future. (Page 64) Growth and technological advancement in this sector are particularly important, given the disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas and toxic diesel particulates that come from traditional diesel trucks.
- Dramatic improvement in vehicle efficiency.
California’s vehicle standards, which have been emulated by the federal government, have resulted in fleet wide improvements in passenger vehicle efficiency. As a result, California is predicted to experience a 2 billion gallon decline in gasoline consumption from 14.6 billion gallons per year in 2012 to 12.7 billion gallons per year by 2022. At approximately $3 dollars per gallon of gasoline, that’s over $6 billion per year in savings for consumers. (Page 182)
- Expected exponential growth in electric vehicles (EV).
Through policies like the $2,500 California Vehicle Rebate Project and the Governor’s 1.5 million EV by 2025 goal, the growth of EV deployment in California is unprecedented. As a result, the Energy Commission expects exponential growth in the development and use of electric passenger vehicles in the coming years. (Page 193) Since electric vehicles offer a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline or diesel‐fueled vehicles, particularly if renewables are the electricity source, this will mean substantial carbon savings in the near future.
Notable in this study is that everything points to these trends continuing in the coming years. As the report states, “existing government incentives and regulations combined with alternative fuel price advantages, expected economy of sale vehicle manufacturing, and technology advances could lead to at least a three-fold increase in alternative fuel growth by 2020.” (Page 190)
Increasing diversification of the California fuel mix aligns with forecasts conducted by EDF earlier this year. If these trends continue, the Energy Commission predicts that “California will achieve goals for petroleum displacement, in‐stage biofuel production, and LCFS compliance.”
Achieving full compliance of LCFS and other clean fuels policies is imperative for California to reach greenhouse gas reductions goals. Though the state has made a tremendous amount of progress to date, it needs to continue to spur advanced technologies and adequately address challenges related to alternative fuel growth. The IEPR shows that California is on track to doing this and continued implementation of existing policies is key to lasting success.