A study by San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (SDG&E) found that a diversified decarbonization approach is needed for California to hit its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.

This would include intense electrification, the use of clean fuels such as hydrogen and renewable natural gas (RNG), and carbon removal projects.

“Accelerated electrification of transportation and other sectors is essential to California and our region’s sustainability. It is also incredibly important that California takes electric reliability into consideration and doesn’t leave anyone behind when developing a decarbonization roadmap,” said SDG&E CEO Caroline Winn. “Given the scale of the transformation required to achieve California’s ambitious goals, collaboration across many sectors will be critical. “

The study was conducted with technical support from the Boston Consulting Group, Black & Veatch and University of California San Diego Professor David G. Victor. Researchers found that California electric generation capacity needs to increase to about four times the capacity that existed in 2020. Between 2020 and 2045, California electric consumption is expected to increase by a whopping 96%.

To keep electric service reliable, California would need to add “clean, firm and flexible” resources that may be dispatched at any time to meet needs, the study found. Installing 40 GW of battery storage, as well as 20 GW of dispatchable generation from 100% clean hydrogen combustion by 2045 is also projected as necessary to meet this goal.

By 2045, researchers said there would be demand for 6.5 million metric tons of clean hydrogen across California’s economy. Around 80% is projected to be used to enhance the reliability of the electric supply.

Beyond net zero by 2045, Gov. Gavin Newsom has also issued an executive order to phase out new gasoline-powered passenger vehicle sales by 2035. That would lead to a growing need for electricity in the transport segment.

The city of San Diego’s climate action plan is more aggressive than the state’s. It seeks to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2035 in part by phasing out natural gas use in new and existing buildings.

San Diego-based Sempra gas utility Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), along with SDG&E, have also established net zero goals and have committed to decarbonization

California regulators are also requiring natural gas generators to increasingly use more RNG in their power supply. SoCalGas has set a goal to deliver 20% RNG by 2030, up from 4% in 2021.