Inside Aera
Featured, Energy Matters Jan 17, 2023

Finding balance in a “trilemma”

Aera’s CEO Erik Bartsch reflects on 2022, and says a new dialog is needed in California on how fossil fuels, decarbonizing technology and renewables can coexist to deliver energy people can depend on

2022 was an extraordinary year bringing renewed focus and attention to the energy discussion, and how to balance affordability, energy security and sustainability while ensuring no one is left behind.

Erik Bartsch, president and CEO, Aera Energy

This challenge is what some are calling “the energy trilemma,” and it’s prevalent in conversations as California policymakers grapple with reaching ambitious climate goals while reducing reliance on oil and gas in the state’s energy transformation.

As a result of the ongoing energy crisis, California policymakers issued a call to action to accelerate the energy transition and published a 2022 Scoping Plan for Achieving Carbon Neutrality through the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The CARB plan outlines, in general terms, how California intends to meet its ambitious climate targets, providing a roadmap of actions to set the state on a path to reducing the effects of climate change. CARB’s plan is important as it often sets the path for subsequent legislation and regulatory action.

In 2023, Aera intends to work with the state to find constructive solutions to the energy trilemma. With current events and the CARB plan top of mind, we look forward to new dialog on how fossil fuels, decarbonizing technology and renewables can coexist to deliver the energy Californians can rely on.

Secure supply of oil

In-state production of oil and gas is vital to fuel our everyday activities and California currently produces 30% of the crude needed to support our economy. California’s carbon neutrality plan rightly avoids calling for additional action to eliminate in-state production. Why? California is an energy island. There are no pipelines connecting California to the rest of the country, so our only option is to produce it here or import more crude across the ocean so long as demand exists. Eliminating in-state production before alternatives come to market would effectively erode our energy security and push up to $50 billion per year in revenue to foreign governments that don’t share our values.

Deployment of decarbonizing technology

Make no mistake, as important as secure and affordable domestic production is for California’s energy transition, deploying technology at-scale is essential to achieving the state’s climate targets. On that front, there was promising progress in 2022. First, CARB endorsed the use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a proven technology taking CO2 that would have gone to the atmosphere and safely storing it underground, as a necessary tool to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. Second, newly passed Senate Bill 905 requires CARB to establish a program to, in part, evaluate the effectiveness and safety of CCS and other technologies bringing California one step closer to CCS becoming a reality. This policy support, alongside incentives built into the federal Inflation Reduction Act, means CCS could be a powerful tool for California.

Looking ahead

These developments leave me optimistic and excited for 2023, but I’m also mindful of what’s at-stake and the work ahead. At Aera, we know Californians are depending on the industry and our expertise. We are providing Californians the safe, reliable energy they depend on while working to deploy decarbonizing technology to support the state’s goals. It’s not just about sustaining a business; it’s about sustaining lives and livelihoods by making the best use of people and infrastructure to meet the challenge so that this and future generations succeed and thrive in this beautiful state we call home.

DID YOU KNOW? Aera Energy is a three-time recipient of the Forbes America’s Midsize Employer List, placing ninth in the 2022 ranking and securing its spot in the top ten midsize companies to work for in the United States.

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