Building a Climate Change Resilient Electricity System for Meeting California's Energy and Environmental Goals

Developing scenarios that offer a glimpse into California's future electricity system.

The Regents of the University of California, on behalf of the Irvine Campus


Irvine, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

The project was completed in 2018 and provided an understanding of the specific effects of climate change on the electricity system by 2050 and the resulting ability of the system to satisfy California's GHG reduction target. Because the baseline energy scenario did not account for climate change and fell short of the GHG target, the project team explored a set of energy technologies and resource management strategies to determine if they could offset the shortfall. The project generated a more realistic energy scenario for achieving the 2050 GHG target at the lowest cost. This project was conducted in collaboration with two related studies led by Energy and Environmental Economics (EPC-14-069) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (EPC-14-072), and results of these three studies have been presented to policy makers and legislative staff. Three journal papers were published.

View Final Report

The Issue

The energy system needs to respond to the impacts of climate change, such as increased precipitation extremes, higher peak energy demand from hotter and more frequent temperature extremes, and damage to energy infrastructure. At the same time, the energy sector must comply with mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These two pressures (climate impacts and changes in energy policy) interact in complex ways on the existing grid. To support future planning, this project estimates how climate change would interact with efforts to reduce GHG emissions and to comply with renewable energy targets.

Project Innovation

The project used climate change simulations to model conditions that disrupt electricity system generation, renewable capacity potential, and demand for the years of 2030, 2040, and 2050. The combined effect of these impacts was then simulated on the electricity system using an integrated electric grid modeling platform to determine the shortfall in achieving California's greenhouse gas emissions goals. The project then analyzed the potential benefits of additional mitigation strategies, such as additional energy storage, on reducing emissions.

Project Benefits

The primary benefit of this study was addressing a knowledge gap that has hampered energy planners and policy makers. Previous energy planning studies for the state assumed that future climate would be the same as historical or that climate change would have no impact on the energy system. This study revealed that feedback from climate change could disrupt strategies designed to meet California's greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy goals for 2050. The study also found that the potential shortfalls caused by climate change could be overcome with existing technologies, perhaps aided by policy changes.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

The study provides a clearer understanding of the importance of water resources in supporting a low-carbon energy system. The effects of water availability on hydropower, solar thermal, and geothermal affect grid services.

Energy Security

Energy Security

The project includes analyses of robust energy systems, which can be simulated to inform which set of technologies in which places are the most resilient to climate change, and therefore more energy secure.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Brian Tarroja

David Stoms

David Stoms

CEC Project Manager
California Energy Commission

Contact the Team