Today, California can claim first place in just about every renewable-energy category: It is home to the nation’s largest wind farm and the world’s largest solar thermal plant. It has the largest operating photovoltaic solar installation on Earth and more rooftop solar than any other state. (It helps to have a lot of roofs.) This new industry has been an economic boon as well. Solar companies now employ an estimated 64,000 people in the state, surpassing the number of people working for all the major utilities. California has attracted more venture capital investment for clean-energy technologies than the European Union and China combined. Even the state’s manufacturing base is experiencing a boost; one of California’s largest factories is Tesla Motors’ sprawling electric-vehicle assembly plant in the Bay Area.
All of these advances have undercut a fundamental tenet of economics: that more growth equals more emissions. Between 2003 and 2013 (the most recent data), the Golden State decreased its greenhouse gas emissions by 5.5 percent while increasing its gross domestic product by 17 percent—and it did so under the thumb of the nation’s most stringent energy regulations.
Continue reading: Dreamers of the Golden Dream